By Chris Patmore, Rock At Night London Correspondent
Venue: Islington Assembly Hall, London-January 29, 2016
(No) thanks to Amazon Prime and its streaming of the TV drama series Nashville, I have a new appreciation of country music, or maybe that should be an appreciation of new country music, I’m not sure which. The music is certainly a lot rockier than it used to be, and while I was fan of country-rock (The Eagles, CSNY, et al) back in the ’70s, it was derided by purists, in much the same way that jazz fusion was. Thankfully times have moved on and cross-pollination of musical genres is no longer frowned upon, except by what can best be described as musical bigots, somewhat reminiscent of those rednecks from “The Blues Brothers” who liked both types of music, “country and western”.
The Lone Bellow aren’t strictly country music and fall into a less definable category of Americana, which I assume is more of a region-specific type of country/folk music that isn’t from Nashville, or all of North America either – the band is actually from New York. Whatever banner it falls under, The Lone Bellow make great music that is a joy to behold live. I initially heard them in March 2014 at their first London show at The Borderline. As a house photographer (and one with eclectic taste) for the renown venue (and others in their stable) I would often (mostly) shoot gigs of bands I’d never heard of, and The Lone Bellow was one such band. At the time I was blown away by the shear energy of their performance and their rapport with the audience in the relatively small venue, as well as feeling an instant connection with the songs, which seemed to stay in my head long after the show. Since then, the band has built a solid following in the US and a comparatively large one here in the UK, at least big enough to do a UK-wide tour, including a sold-out concert at the Islington Assembly Hall in London on 29 January.
The show was opened by Joseph, who are a trio of sisters from Portland, Oregon, and not the London-based singer-songwriter of the same name who I’d seen at the same, previously mentioned venue. Their gentle harmonies were a perfect start to the evening, reminding me of the two young siblings (both in real life and on the TV) from “Nashville”, as well as England’s, The Staves.
The headliner’s set was a mixture of songs from both their albums performed with their usual energy and charisma. However, and this is purely my personal view, I felt a lot of their energy was dissipated in the much larger room. Having seen them up close and personal in a small venue it seemed that the dynamo that is Zach Williams, wasn’t able to make the same connection, despite him crossing the divide that serves as the photographers’ pit, to get closer to the fans.
The band also performed a set of unplugged songs, singing and playing with nothing more than a single microphone on the stage. This worked perfectly at The Borderline, and to their credit, not only did their voices carry across the larger room, but also the audience stayed quiet throughout, proving the band’s power to captivate the audience.
Of course, I am writing from something of a privileged position of seeing them (and many other relatively well-known bands, including the similar Delta Rae) in an intimate setting; however those seeing them live for the first time were clearly blown away by the experience, if the applause was anything to judge by.
Great songs, great harmonies and stunning performances; The Lone Bellow are definitely a band to see live, and before they start playing even bigger venues and festival stages. Full upcoming tour details are on their website.
The Lone Bellow
The Lone Bellow in London-“Call to War”
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