Playing a free show by way of a thank you to the venue in south-west London where she launched her Cigarettes And Housework album a few weeks ago, Rachel Fuller knows she has her work cut out to establish herself as more than Pete Townshend's girlfriend.
But, tonight, Fuller hosts a splendid evening full of delights. First on is Michael Cuthbert, who has some way to go yet to make the singer-songwriter grade. Then comes Simon Townshend, Pete's brother, strumming an acoustic guitar manically.
Next up is Foy Vance, a Belfast singer who covers Jimi Hendrix's "Crosstown Traffic" as if to prove he's the missing link between Richie Havens and Stevie Wonder. He proceeds to play five self-penned compositions, including the heart-rending "Indiscriminate Act of Kindness", which is easily on a par with Damien Rice's best work.
Backed by a three-piece band (Stuart Ross on bass, Peter Huntington on drums and Dave Holmes on guitar), Fuller sits at the piano and opens with "Cigarettes and Housework", the title track from her album. She has a clear, pure, very English singing voice, while her songwriting is reminiscent of that of the French chanteuse Véronique Sanson. Fuller throws in a few classical flourishes at the beginning of "Into My Heart" and then says she wrote "Imperfection" for her boyfriend.
Fuller admits: "I write a lot about smoking and rain and being naked," and proves it with "Ghost in Your Room", but "Jigsaw", a collaboration with Townshend, showcases a lovely, ethereal melody. And she even blushes when she comes back to encore with the angsty "Spin".
The Who mainman eases into his acoustic set with the fluid "Drowned" from the Quadrophenia opus and puts specs on for "Behind Blue Eyes". He pays tribute to the late Gram Parsons with a version of "Devil in Disguise", and plays a really poignant "Heart to Hang on To" from Rough Mix, the album he recorded with Ronnie Lane in 1977, before switching to a 12-string for the rarely performed "Greyhound Girl", from the futuristic concept album Lifehouse. Townshend and Fuller met when he recorded Lifehouse in 2000, and Fuller comes back to play piano on "In the Ether". "I'm not having a Linda McCartney moment," she quips. Finally, Townshend plays the forgotten Who single "Let's See Action" and welcomes everyone back for a dynamic "I'm One" that brings this venue down.