Hard Rock Country Emma Swindells, Sam Coe & The Long Shadows, Lars Pluto, Jack & Ella, The A
It's back to the Hard Rock Cafe for the #TEAMw21team to get through another packed evening of entertainment. The acts tonight are split between four playing acoustically and 3 playing electric with full bands. In a bid to avoid last months late night overrun things were kept extremely tight and were run with military precision. The only negative aspect of the evening being the amount of background noise, with the bar in such close proximity to the stage it's an unfortunate repercussion, more so of course for the acoustic acts.
First act of the night Roni (Perry) who some may recall from Buckle & Boots, who opened with "Ricochet" from her "See You Around Baby" cd, which she would return to for much of her material. This was probably not the best environment in which to enjoy Roni, there was plenty of effort given but songs like "Home" and her song inspired by Elvis Presley "Gravity" needed a more attentive audience to be fully enjoyed. Her finest moment came with the closing song "See You Around Baby" which came with a more immediate chorus.
As if to prove just how difficult it was as a a solo acoustic act, Kerri Watt armed with a batch of songs that could normally win over the most hard hearted listener still had a little trouble singing above the general hubbub. It did not stop her putting in a great set for the many that were listening though. Kicking off with "Paris" with its uptempo chorus and audience engaging chorus, this was a stop off for Kerri who was in the process of moving back to Glasgow. It was followed by the excellent "She Said" for her Mum. Having just got accustomed to seeing Kerri back on the London gig circuit again it'll be a shame to lose her once again, the hypnotic chorus of last years single "Old School Love" being an example of the sort of thing that we'll be missing out on. This was followed up with a piece of pure pop "Who's Loving Me Now?" again with an opportunity for the audience to join in. It was at this point that Kerri attempted a much quieter song, "The Wandering Kind" came with an excellent back story in that when it eventually surfaces as a recording it will have Ben Earle on backing vocals, however with audience noise showing no sign of abating a compromise was found by the sound man upping Kerri's vocal to 11, which did take a little away from the song although it allowed us to hear it unhindered. For those that saw Jeff Cohen at his Songwriter Rounds last year, the next song "Hey Love" was the one he had nearly seen recorded by a number of people including The Band Perry, it now has a home as Kerri has covered it, it comes with seemingly a zillion hooks and went down very well. It closed a short excellent set that deserved greater attention from the wider audience.
Of the acoustic acts, the one that fared best unsurprisingly were the Adelaides who were able to generate some volume. They opened with "Jack Daniels Is My Only Friend" one of the highlight songs from the previous incarnation of the band.and followed it up with "Painkiller". and "I'd Do It Again" with their unique style ( at least for country music ) of constantly changing lead vocalists every verse, although personally I found the real strength in the band was when all three of them sung in unison as they did on the chorus of the slower song "No Survivors". . They must have played some odd shows recently as they seemed truly relieved to hear the audience say that they had heard of Maren Morris's "My Church" which did not seem much of an ask, so they must have been well chuffed to get an audience singalong. "Wreckless" came with an intriguing introduction and seemed a strong song on first listen and for a while the Adelaides were more of a latter day Wilson Phillips. There was another audience participation element for "Pull The Trigger" though this seemed a bit tacked on and almost took away from what was already a great song while "Jellybaby" is a better song than needing to be introduced as being a being "a bit rude", I would just let the audience work it out for themselves. They already seem to be collecting some devout admirers and these are still quite early days for the Adelaides who certainly have something about them. Closing with a cover of the Pistol Annies "Hell On Heels" gave an indication of the heights they are hoping to scale.
Jack & Ella followed and when they hit form such as with their opening song "Hometown" showed great promise, while their best song was the EP Leftover "Can't Be Me" which saw Ella take the microphone from its stand and wander to the front of the stage as she sang. They then followed things up with the first song they ever wrote "Nowhere To Be" which had a raw charm, and maybe a touch of the early Shires sound about it.
It was at this point that things took off in a strange direction as the duo then decide to plug their respective forthcoming solo projects. Ella's song "Ready For The Fall" was slightly slower and came with a great vocal performance, Jack's song "I Carry You" was finished that very day, and was probably premiered on the wrong occasion, with the background noise not helping for what was clearly a deeply personal song.
Things closed out in fine form with.the uptempo title track of their EP "Are You Ready?"
The switch to electric saw the evening swing into top gear. Lars Pluto ably assisted by The Reavers, Tom Wright on guitar and Phil Bloomberg on bass put the "Country" into Hard Rock Country. with a set seemingly so improvised that i'm not sure anyone knew what was coming next - having said that it was an absolute delight and delivered with aplomb. Opening with "Bringing Back To You" this was classic country music, indeed i've never heard Tom's guitar playing sound quite so "authentic" and when matched with Phil's bass playing and Lars's Cash like gravelly vocals the end result was nothing short of awesome. The next song "Don't Take Your Pretty Self Away" with that thumping bass and another great guitar solo carried on the winning formula. A cover of Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" came with the observation that "If I don't no-one else will". The next song "There With Me" rolled along like a runaway steam train while "Weaken Your Walk" showed that it is not impossible to be both classic and yet sound as fresh and vital as anything else around today. It is safe to say that Lars's set at times was irreverent and this was best summed up by "Dear Country Music" although in general it is hard to disagree with any of the sentiments of the song. It was delivered with a real passion and Lars even managed to shred a string or two fighting the corner for the music he loves.
The last time we caught up with Sam Coe and The Long Shadows was at C2C where she was suffering somewhat from a cold though still gave it her best. Tonight this was a band at the top of its game as it raced through a set that highlighted the songs to come on their forthcoming album which looks like it could be something special. The band were tight with a real punchy sound and songs like "Whiskey Dreaming" or "Rhinestones" with an almost modern funky sound came across as exceptionally strong material.
There was an all out rocker in the shape of "Heartbreaker" while "Full Moon" was nothing short of infectious. There was some excellent lap steel playing and the band were propelled by some excellent drumming from Wayne Moore.
If the new album can capture the intensity of this performance then we will undoubtedly be hearing a lot more of Sam Coe and her band this summer.
Headlining the night was Emma Swindells, hot on the release of her latest and really rather excellent "Radio Silence" EP, who managed to hold things together despite nursing the tail end of a chest infection and rather bizarrely being introduced as Emma Sweeney! With a full batch of siblings in the band, they immediately kicked off with "Lover and My Best Friend" and the title track "Radio Silence" with its unmistakable opening riff being a little muted in the first verse before the sound man upped the volume for the rest of the song. There followed a punchy loud version of "Dancing On My Own" from her debut EP before things were to slow with "Disappear" with Emma holding the microphone to really concentrate on the vocals. The unsung star of the latest EP is twin sister Laura who makes some quite telling contributions and tonight she even got a song written about her conversion from heavy rock to country music with "Hillbilly In Denial" which came replete with a suitably hillbilly guitar solo.
There were a couple of covers including Beyonce's "Daddy Lessons" and a well received "Jolene". There was just about time to squeeze in an encore with "Lost For Words" and so a bucket list moment for the Hard Rock Cafe obsessed Swindells clan was completed successfully!
Although we had a few reservations about the overall levels of background noise, in an era of venues closing and sky high ticket prices, these monthly events at the Hard Rock cafe are giving artists an outlet to play and giving the audience access to 7 live acts for a mere five pounds, in fact if anything maybe a slightly higher price might dissuade some of the folk who were only there for a chat from attending.