Review: Honne live in New York City

Honne live in New York City review by Alice Severin

Rough Trade
New York City
November 4, 2015

Honne. If you haven’t heard of them yet, you will. The British duo just made their first visit to New York City, selling out two shows at Mercury Lounge and Rough Trade. The Rough Trade show was packed – and with good reason. Call it “electronic soul”, or think Disclosure meets Stevie Wonder. British newspaper The Telegraph said famously that “Honne’s futuristic soul is destined to re-invent babymaking music.” Maybe that’s taking too wide a gamble on everyone’s after-show activities, but the feel-good qualities of their music definitely worked their magic on the Rough Trade audience. Honne, as it turns out, is a Japanese word that means desire. They release their music on their own label named Tatemae, which is Japanese for “public behavior”, so maybe they’d like you to show as much desire in public as possible, or maybe that’s what they do. The latest EP is called “Coastal Love” – but they’ve been playing to solid audiences right from their first EP in 2014 “Warm on a Cold Night”.

The elegantly bearded Andy lends his smooth voice to their songs, and plays guitar, showing yet again that the Brits have a sense of soul and R & B heritage that’s difficult to top. James (no last names) is on keyboards and guitar, a serious, concentrated presence behind his camera-ready face. The two are backed admirably by a bass and drum duo whose beats are tight and danceable, and Naomi on vocals, whose gorgeous voice adds a sweet lift to the music. There were serious fans in the audience, a big, happy mosh of dancing faces, all smiles as they called out their love for the singer, who seemed to be a heartthrob favorite with the Brooklyn crowd. There was a brilliant moment in the midst of one of the songs where Andy, hearing the audience sing with him, held out the microphone. The audience then sang the words back to him, in time, in unison. Not something you see very often, or as well done, especially in a small venue. Honne handled it all with practiced ease and stagecraft, giving off the impression of a band ready to fill the big spaces. After the show, James and Andy posed for photographs, signing autographs and chatting to excited fans, James generously offering hugs with a soft smile. They radiated a natural warmth and happiness in their “tatemae”. Rough Trade’s got a good track record for bringing in the latest thing in the UK and Europe a couple of months before it all takes off globally. The beaming fans, clutching their autographs and albums, would tell you that they’d known it all along.

Review by Alice Severin