Good things come to those who wait. Russell Marsden and Emma Richardson EMMA RICHARDSON (emmarichardsonart.com) were set to perform live after two years. On a cold February evening at St Pancras Old Church, London an intimate venue fans would see the Band of Skulls duo sing old and new songs from their self titled album “Marsden & Richardson” Band of Skulls | Official Site.
Every inch of the altar was taken up with microphones, speakers, amplifiers, cables, pedal boards, guitars and a string orchestra. The new album is a departure from their trademark loud rock sound and replaced with sweeping violins, strings, acoustic guitars, bass and is more focused on the magic of their lyrics. Their last album was “Love Is All You Love” released in 2019 and they had toured all over England and North America in venues many times bigger than this church.
The songs for the new album had already been formed and written but never fitted their loud rock personas so during lockdown they rehearsed and then recorded 12 songs. The opening song of the night was “Outsider” the first track from the new album backed with a string orchestra the effect was completely exhilarating. Where there would have been an undulating bass and heavy guitars these had been replaced by the duo’s acoustic voices and filled every heart with awe and wonder.
In hushed anticipation the crowd listened to Marsden and Richardson sing more songs from the new album such as “One More Question“, “Closer Together” and “Lonely Hearts“. This was serious music for adults, each song hit the audience with precision, the strings carried the songs on an interstellar trajectory to undiscovered musical lands.
One of the outstanding moments of the night was when the duo did an even more stripped down version of “Beautiful Love” with Russell on piano and Emma using hand claps to generate a beat for the song. The effect was electrifying and sent the crowd into rapturous applause at the end of each song.
Old songs were given similar high octane orchestral riffs and songs such as “Honest” and “The Devil Takes Care Of His Own” were such a delight to hear and the result was a charismatic, addictive monstrous songs given new life. These repurposed songs showed the versatility of the song writing and strong foundation of the original lyrics.
If this is the future for Marsden and Richardson’s sound then the future looks and sounds totally royally awesomesaurous.
On a wet Saturday in July 2021, a miracle happened. Live music came back to these Isles of Britannia from the good people at Tennessee Fields Festival. It was very nearly touch and go due to the restrictions imposed by this lacklustre government but the organisers held their nerve and gave everyone who attended a magnificent day full of music. On the bill were Gareth Nugent, Lucy Blu, Jake Morrell, Morganway, Jade Helliwell, Essex County, Kezia Gill and the headline act Ward Thomas. The loss of scheduled American acts that were scheduled for one reason or another didn’t detract from the enjoyment and pure unbridled joy that fans experienced for many their first live music in just under two years.
At 11 AM the gates were opened to a very muddy field in Chelmsford, Essex (Well it wouldn’t be a festival in England if it wasn’t wet right?) Rain did its best to put a dampener on festivities but it takes more than H2O to stop this first live music festival from carrying on.
Opening the festival was Gareth Nugent, a regular on the UK country music scene. Gareth’s velvety voice was sensational and such a pleasure to hear. Gareth wasn’t the only artist who couldn’t quite believe that he was actually on stage in front of an live audience. We as fans were also in disbelief in seeing an actual live act playing country-western music. It’s been a difficult time for artists and live music goers alike during this lockdown and to see music again was very emotional.
Next up was Lucy Blu who wowed the audience with a combination of her charisma, stage performance and foot tapping music. You can see the pure joy that Lucy had for being on that stage, a stage that seemed lost to all performers but now belonged to her and her band.
Then we had Jake Morrell ably supported by Poppy Fardell and Tim Prottey-Jones (On drums, what instrument does that musical genius not know how to play?) Having seen Jake support other bands and artists on the London music scene it was great to see him perform as an artist in his own right.
The last band I ever saw live pre-lockdown was Morganway and the first band that I saw post lockdown was Morganway! The universe loves synchronicity and Morganway were without a doubt a highlight of the afternoon. SJ Mortimer brought her A-game with her voice her energy and passion, mix that with Nicole Terry‘s sumptuous fiddle playing, add in a splash of Kieran and Callum Morganway‘s backing vocals and guitar then with Ed Bullinger and Matt Brocklehurst‘s drums and keyboard and you have a killer combination of adrenaline pumping country rock.
Throughout the festival you had the main acts but then also acoustic acts such as machine O’Hagan, Emma and Jolie, The Folly Brothers and the legend that is Tim Prottey-Jones. Jade Halliwell stepped in at the last minute to replace Jessica Lynn who were supposed to play but due to one of the band members having to self isolate she also had to self isolate. This meant that the festival will no longer have any kind of American representation but was an opportunity for English acts to shine in the spotlight.
It was my first time seeing as Essex County, three brothers who moved to Nashville to make a big in the country music scene. The brothers are well known in the States and have a dedicated following and it was Tennessee feels festival that they finally got an opportunity to play before a British audience. The bands legion of female fans made sure that they were heard throughout their performance. Gentle heckling that comes with seeing your favourite music acts on stage.
Then we had Kezia Gill a sensational artist who lifted the spirits and the feet of those in the crowd with her tracks ‘Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman‘, ‘Wings‘, ‘House of Cards‘, ‘The Mess I Made‘ ‘All of Me‘ and ‘Country Song‘.Kezia made special mention of her Friday night club, A online fan club who have been there to support Kezia when she live streamed on Friday nights. Now the fans and cosier could see each other one performing the other listening to the music dies fill their days, nights and headspace. It was also a reminder on how loud live music can be, with the bass thumping, guitars strumming and powerful vocals all making their way through your ears to your heart and your head.
By the time the Ward Thomas took to the stage you completely forgot the past 16 months or so and all the heartache, disappointment and frustration of not having seen your favourite artists in person and in the flesh singing their hearts out. Lizzie and Catherine brought the house down with a mix of singalong songs, pathos induced reflections of the human condition and crowd pleaser lyrics made sure that this night of music would forever live on in the annals of musical history.
So Tennessee fields festival a surreal, time changing, uplifting experience for mind body and soul. Roll on 2022 when we can get to experience it all over again. If this festival is on on your radar then you are missing out on some of the best musical performers artists and bands that are performing music from these fair Isles of Britannia.
Once in a while, a voice stops you dead in your tracks. The voice goes deep into your musical should and stops you cold. You look around to see if you have left this reality or have gone into another realm. I heard Eric Burton’s voice coupled with Adrian Quesada’s guitar on ‘Colors’ last year on Spotify and I must have played that track multiple, multiple times. It brought me immense pleasure and happiness to be moved by this deep, rich totally immersive sound. It was as if I had discovered an unknown treasure from the seventies one that had escaped the notice of all the music that has since passed.
There is an urgency in Eric’s voice a message that needs to be delivered to your heart bypassing your mind. It needs to open up that part of you that has become worn down by the relentless grey that is modern existence.
On 7th February 2020 at Islington Assembly Hall, London the Black Pumas continued with their Black Moon Rising tour they came and performed their music onto an audience who had travelled across the globe to hear them play. As far as Venezuela to Spain fans had travelled to experience in person the music of this incredible band.
From the first opening chords of ‘Old Man’ the Black Pumas gripped the audience and a wave of positivity, warmth and electricity flowing through the concert venue which went through each and every fan. We knew this was special that this was a night to say afterwards that we had seen the Black Pumas live. Lets not forget that the Black Pumas are a duo and the other half of that duo is Adrian Quesada and without his guitar and the almighty power he wields with that instrument there would not be those delicious hooks and riffs to thrill and excite your senses.
Hearing the album the self titled ‘Black Pumas’ you are transported to a world full of funkadelic soul, pulsing electronic heartbeats of bass with hypnotic beats. When you hear this music live in concert the effect is magnified a thousand fold sending shivers down your spine. Your feet can’t help but move along to the rhythms of the music.
The whole atmosphere at the audience was electric, sending positive energy back to the band by singing the words to each and every song. And then Eric stepped it up another level by singing ‘Fire’ into the crowd itself. Surrounded by fans the whole audience went estactic.
Then Eric vaulted the security barrier and lept back on stage leaving the crowd hungry for more music and for the night not to end.
What a show, a performance from the band that easily rates as being in the top ten live experiences I’ve been to. Well worth the wait of all these past months to a glimpse of the mercurial talents of these exceptional musicians. It’s no wondered Black Pumas were nominated for a Grammy this year for Best New Artist.
Then as the last song came over a silence came over the crowd. Surely it couldn’t end, not this evening of pure soul?
Of course it didn’t as the band came back to an uproarious encore when Eric asked the crowd if they wanted to hear another song? The crowd erupted with a almighty ‘YESSSSSS’ and so Eric sang an acoustic version of the Beatles classic ‘Eleanor Rigby’.
Then this evening of supreme came to an end. We had witnessed music in it’s purest form connecting us not only with the artists but with each of us who were in the venue.
As if the night couldn’t get any better Eric then launched into a cover of Tracey Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ a sublime mix of soulful vocals and words to connect with the audiences souls.
What next for the Black Pumas? They are currently on a path that is leading them to be interstellar. For now I can say that I was there at ground zero seeing them lift off on career that will take them into the stars.