Keaton Henson was a long way from home. The London based singer, poet, and visual artist traveled the Atlantic for a handful of shows in the United States, kicking off the tour at The Chapel in San Francisco last Wednesday night. It was short–probably as Henson had hoped. Henson has severe stage anxiety and rarely performs. Had his debut album, Dear, not been discovered and shared by BBC’s Radio1 host, Zane Low, he likely would have amassed a collection of music that would have never been shared. He would have thought they were terrible.
Like his music, Henson has a fragile and lengthy build; live, he moves tentatively, sheepishly looking out onto crowd and seemingly thinking “Are you watching me?” As he gently strummed on the guitar, framed by two dim yellow lights and a red velvet curtains, onlooker got a closer look into his cathartic songs about heartache and love. There, alone, in front of strangers, Henson sang “Does he know not to talk / About your dad? / Does he know when you’re sad?” with the intimate tone he may have sung that night he wrote the song for his unrequited love. Moving quickly between songs, without banter or any mention of his jet lag, he played between his two albums–then said “this is my last song–I’m very tired.” He would return for an encore likely out of obligation. And while each song was as good as the album, nothing musically stood out; what people will recall, is that moment they were let into Keaton Henson’s world.