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 Where there would have been an undulating bass and heavy guitars these had been replaced by the duo’s acoustic voices and filled every heart with awe and wonder.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.
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.
When angels visit us, we do not hear the rustle of wings, nor feel the feathery touch of the breast of a dove; but we know their presence by the love they create in our hearts. It was billed as the concert to end all Christmas concerts, something for the history books, a point in time forever etched onto the minds of those who were there.
When Sarah Darling stepped onto the Union Chapel stage on 2nd December 2019 no one could have predicted the joy and happiness that erupted and burst through the winter gloom that had started to grip the capital city.
Opening the evenings entertainment with ‘Where Cowboys Ride’ this ode to the frontiersmen of the west which has over 3 million plays on Spotify exemplified all the best of Sarah’s vocal talents. Backed by her band of brothers the song carried you away to those open skies where horses run and prairie landscapes.
England and more specifically London has been the second home for the Iowan native who has spent so much time touring these isles that when she returns to Nashville friends believe she has an English accent. You know that Sarah has turned native when she sings about the weather, a national obsession for anyone who lives on this emerald isle.
Sarah’s songs such as ‘Blue Sky’ and ‘London Fog’ dramatically conjure up all those feelings associated by being in wide open spaces with azure blue skies and the silvery dusky fog that still settles in London mornings.
Having acted as her own warm up act Sarah introduced Jamie Lawson a phenomenal singer songwriter who was the first artist to signed up to Ed Sheeran’s Gingerbread Man Records. Singing ‘I wasn’t expecting That’ and ‘Hallelujah’ he blew away the crowd with his passion and intensity of delivery to produce a stunning performance.
And then as the ecstatic audience applauded Jamie for his music, Sarah came back on stage and introduced her next guest stars The Wandering Hearts.
Now this evening was beginning to look like we had been transported a million miles away to the Grand Ole Opry. Where rising stars of country perform to showcase their unique contribution to the pantheon of country legends that had stepped on stage before them.
Then Sarah had the audience in the palm of her hands. What delight were to come next?
The answer to that came in shape of new songs that Sarah had been working on in Los Angeles and the Campfire Sessions. ‘Hungover’, ‘Waves’ ‘Drive away with You’ and ‘Leave the Pieces’
After an intermission Sarah came back onstage in a new sparkly black dress which shimmered in the lights. This was not the only thing that sparkled as Sarah introduced the sister duo Ward Thomas onto the stage to sing three songs ‘Landslide’, ‘River’ and her new single also featuring Ward Thomas ‘Divide’.
Ward Thomas were simply divine and the harmonies that they produced with Sarah on these songs weer breathtaking. It was my first time hearing and seeing Ward Thomas perform and I am forever grateful to Sarah for this gift. Truly the evening was one musical gift after another especially with the three guest star artists that had performed this night.
Then as this was a Christmas concert Sarah sang such Christmas hits as ‘Santa Baby’, ‘Have yourself a Merry little Christmas’, ‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Silent Night’. Now when Sarah sang this last song she did so unplugged and acoustically. What better venue to sing ‘Silent Night’ then at Union Chapel. The audience were silent, all were mesmerised by the pure sound coming from the angel praising the birth of Christ.
Sarah left the stage to rapturous applause from the audience. What an extraordinary night had been enjoyed by all who were lucky enough to attend. Would there be anything else left for Sarah to showcase?
The answer came when Sarah appeared on stage again and delivered two more songs ‘Monmatre’ and Hailey’s Comet’. ‘Monmatre’ is Sarah’s love song to the city of love, Paris. It exquisitely captures the essence and magic of that eternal beacon of romance.
What a way to end the nights performance than with this song. A once in a lifetime natural phenomenon that lights up the universe with its fiery approach emblazoned across the night sky.
Sarah lit up the sky’s tonight with her whole soul. A messenger from the Heavens, a traveller from Nashville, tonight heralded the return of the native. The musician who belongs to two cities but who had captured the heart of London this night and every night.