By Simon Shoulders, Rock At Night London Correspondent
Venue: Borderline, London–July 12, 2017-The Shelters and Atlas Wynd
Fresh from playing the British Summertime Festival in Hyde Park, The Shelters played their final gig on European shores for a little while last week at the Borderline in London.
Atlas Wynd were an inspired choice as last minute stand-ins in the support act slot. They recently released a double A-side single containing “Eyes Fixed on the Sun” and “You’re on My Mind” in mid-June and have just featured on HMV’s “Next Big Thing”. Bass player Sam Evans is a new addition to the duo of Peter Chapman (on vocals and guitar) and Harry Sotnick (drums). When you listen to their music on-line you’ll hear the pounding drums of Harry married up with the gloriously catchy guitar work of Peter, there’s a space and simplicity to their expansive garage-rock sound. Far from being wasted space, there’s a sense of balance and crispness that accentuates the breezy, California feel to the melody.
When you can create such a good noise with just just two performers, it’s possible you’d question the need to bring in more, it’s a brave step that Atlas Wynd took when bass-player Sam joined the band, but it is a step that has paid off. Live, the sound the band produces feels more full and weighty and the additional bass line compliments Peter’s guitar work very nicely. Despite the relatively new line-up, there’s plenty of chemistry on stage and on the more wild breaks both frontman Peter and bassist Sam turned to face Harry on drums and the show took on more the joyous feel of an untamed jam as the band let rip whilst feeding off each others visual cues. Watch out for them playing one of the new season of Fluffer Records Pit Parties, if this performance is anything to go on they’ve got what it takes to take on the Pit!
According to their website, The Shelters seem to have the kind of back-story that all musician’s dream of. Not long after Josh Jove, Chase Simpson, Sebastian Harris and Jacob Pilot got together and formed The Shelters, they get spotted playing live (by the legend that is Tom Petty no less!), doors start opening for them (initially to Tom’s home studio!), there’s credits on Tom Petty’s 2014 Album Hypnotic Eye for Josh and Chase, a big label record deal and rock’n’roll stardom beckons… Read around and you’ll find that perhaps there’s a little more to it than that, Chase, Josh and Sebastian had all played together in Automatik Slim which formed in 2008 and was fronted by Dylan Petty. Dylan is the son of Tom’s second wife, Dana (York) Petty. Put two and two together and it’s possible that the journey towards the big break was a little longer and perhaps a little more circuitous than the biography implies.
The thing is though, if that little back story is raising a slightly cynical eyebrow, then being on the front row at the Borderline should soon assuage any misgivings you might be tempted to harbour. Seeing the no-nonsense, business-like way that this band took to the stage, selected their guitars from the racks on each side of the side of the stage, plugged in and then launched full-throttle in to a truly impressive rendition of “Misirlou” replicating the energetic surf-rock style with which Dick Dale brought this long-lived folk tune originating from the somewhere on the shores of the eastern Mediterranean to the attention of western popular culture back in the early 60’s really lays down a marker for what The Shelters are all about. The fact is, these four men from LA are good. Very good indeed. If you like your rock’n’roll straight-up and guitar-heavy, with somewhat more than a passing nod to the likes of the Stones, the Byrds and Cream, coupled with that classic 60’s California surf-rock sound, then you need look no further. I think it’s probably fair to say that if you expect The Shelters to subvert convention and take guitar-led rock towards innovative new horizons then perhaps you’d have come to see the wrong band. Instead The Shelters appear to revel deeply in the nostalgia of those same rock’n’roll conventions and their music is clearly, shamelessly, and thickly drenched in its influences. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, quite the contrary, their brand of no-frills rock’n’roll is punchy and charismatic filled with a swaggering drive and energy. Every break and guitar solo is a real joy to listen to and watch. Judging by the crowd The Shelters have a style that appeals to a broad demographic, and they’re all very much enjoying the show. The band are tight with plenty of movement on stage and plenty of chemistry between band members throughout the performance and they’re clearly having a great time up on stage.
After setting the pace with “Misirlou”, The Shelters took the crowd on a break-neck tour of material from their eponymous album with a sprinkling of new material thrown in with their second song, “Birdwatching” being a personal highlight as the performance blended well with, and seemed to feed off the energy of, that cracking rendition of “Misirlou” with which the show opened. The only breaks in the relentless pace of the performance that The Shelters gave the crowd were “Gold” the video for which was released in early June and more tantalisingly blues-infused number, “Nothing In This World”. In “Gold” the guitar riffs and screaming solo’s took second place to more nuanced and gentle guitar work that gave space for the band to indulge in some impressive vocal harmonies blending the early 60’s California sound with a bluesy edge to pay homage to yet another facet of rock’n’roll heritage. After illustrating that they can create a real atmosphere when they bring the volume and the tempo down, The Shelters then returned to some solid double-denim foot-stomping rock in the real crowd pleaser in “Rebel Heart”. From here the guitars once again came to the fore, but this time with much more fuzz and reverb lending a welcome sun-drenched psychedelic flavour to the back end of the set which complimented the soaring guitar solo’s that marked its final crescendo.
This evening’s entertainment showcased some impressive talent both from a young band that are progressively evolving their sound, and a much more established act that really seem to relish delivering the finest in old-school rock’n’roll. An interesting combination, and one that begs the same question of both bands, but perhaps for different reasons… What next?
Miserlru (Misirlou Dick Dale)
Really Wanted You
Never Look Behind Ya
Nothing In this World
Ghost is Gone
Road less travelled
You’re on my mind
Eyes Fixed On the Sun
Been here before
Brand new song
Eyes Fixed on the Sun (Audio)
You’re on My Mind (Audio)
Mona Lisa (Audio)
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