REVIEW: Rob Houchen EP Launch (Hoxton Underbelly)

8VHxUPc7I first heard Rob Houchen at a cabaret gig over a year ago at the Delfont Room and instantly fell in love with his rich, versatile voice and his ability to act through song so I begged Wilma for a ticket to the launch of his EP, the imaginatively titled RH.

It was a more epic affair than I had anticipated, with two support acts and two guest artists, it felt a little like I was waiting for Queen Elton herself to arrive, but at least paying punters got a lot of bang for their buck.

Houchen played host for the evening: introducing each of the guest artists and each of his songs. With his friendly demeanour, he seemed at ease in the company of a clearly warm audience.

Kicking things off was Emma Kingston, accompanying herself on the beautiful ‘She Used to be Mine’ from Broadway show ‘Waitress’. She then rocked the place with her rendition of Beyoncé’s ‘Love on Top’ hitting all the right notes in all the right places, even with the countless modulations. Matthew Harvey accompanied this number on guitar and went on to sing himself before Rob appeared.

Rob then sang every song on the five track EP plus a few more, kicking off with ‘Alive’: the first track of the album and was subsequently joined for several duets by his special guests. ‘Man’s Man’s Man’s World’ with Rachelle Ann Go was a particular highlight: full of impressive runs and licks from this talented pair.

For me, Houchen really excels when he performs material with a clear narrative. So although his voice is lovely to listen to on Hallelujah, and we all tapped our toes to One Tree Hill theme tune ‘I Don’t Wanna Be’, it’s on MT songs like ‘You Matter to Me’ where he truly comes into his own with his sweet tone, emotional connection and truthful performance. ‘One Second and a Million Miles’ from Bridges of Madison County was another high point, giving Houchen the chance to duet with Emma Kingston on a soaring love song.

The whole point of an EP like this is that the artist gets to pick the material and Houchen has clearly picked songs he loves. If only he’d picked more of my favourites!

Reviewed by Jody Tranter