Shelly Fairchild, Morganway, Ladyva The Troubadour
On entering the Troubadour, Morganway are just completing their soundcheck, and from the back of the venue they sound absolutely deafeningly loud, in fact I don't think i've ever heard anyone so loud at the venue, none of which deters the team from sitting as closely as possible to catch a highly anticipated performance!.
The evening starts with a last minute addition to the bill, Ladyva who appears with a three piece band, a drummer with a bag of drumsticks for literally every occasion, a large double bass and a huge heavyweight portable ( though I uses the term loosely ) piano. Her manager is flittering around and has the look of an old school impressario, the whole team seem very excited about what is going to happen next.
As she takes to her stool and leaned into the microphone one could easily assume we were to be greeted with a Norah Jones style laid back jazz country, we certainly were not expecting her to say "Let's play some boogie woogie". The band it turns out are the Jive Aces and Ladyva it is something of a maestro on the piano. Making Jools Holland look like a positive slouch this was playing at breakneck speed. As if things were not already startling enough, a second keyboard player joined her on stage on the same piano and they simultaneously played in just about every combination that their hands could be in. Their hands were a veritable blur and one could not help but look on amazed at the virtuosity of what we seeing.
For the second song, she was joined by an additional backup singer, while Ladyva stood behind a microphone to sing a version of "Whole Lot A Shakin' Going On" which revealed her to be as great a singer as she was a pianist. By the end of song the band were drenched in sweat and even the audience were a little exhausted just watching it. As quickly as she arrived she was gone, she was both talented, beautiful and charming and if there is to be a Boogie Woogie revival she will be the one leading the way!!
Morganway hot from a storming performance at Buckle & Boots 2018, and with a further BCMA nomination to their name continue to be in the nicest way a reviewers nightmare. At any given moment any member of the band could be doing something notable and at times they were all doing something that contributed to the sheer wall of melody that they project.
Take the opening song "Devils Canyon", do you focus on Edward Bullingers driving tribal drum beat, the seemingly permanently smiling keyboard musings of Matthew Brocklehurst, or maybe the fiddle playing of Nicole Terry, who is not only playing but also providing an impressive stomp and backing vocals at the same time. I've yet to mention Callum & Kieran on guitars or the lead vocal styling of SJ Mortimer, able to move from a subtle quiet delivery to nigh on banshee with effortless ease. as well as contributing a furious tambourine. Tonight they are well served by the mix, which is super clear and although the soundcheck may have been a trifle loud, the balancing for the main show was spot on with each instrument and backing vocal clearly coming through. As they moved on to "My Love Ain't Gonna Save You" they were a sheer joy to watch, all singing, all playing to great effect. This band simply get more impressive with each viewing.
In the small confines of the Troubadour, it was so much easier to see how each individual contributes to the overall final effect. "Let Me Go", fuses almost Johnny Marr like guitar lines, and storming vocals into a song that motors at an unstoppable pace to a finale comprising of just about everybody playing at full pelt before dying away only to then morph into a stunning version of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain".
There are so many layers to this band and the next song "The Sweetest Goodbye" is a delightfully delicate piano led ballad, that give us a chance to catch breath and stands out all the more for it's simplicity. A couple of new songs immediately impress "Want No Other Love", and the James Bond sounding title "You Only Die Once" makes more of the groups ability to split the backup vocal duties across different lines. Another new song is the hauntingly folkish "Frozen In Time" which appears on the setlist for reasons unknown as "Frozen Bagels!"
If the start was awesome then the finish was no less so with full speed stomp of "London Life" complete with Nicole's frantic fiddle solo, great stuff, while confirming that their material literally blows you away, the final song "Hurricane!" brought things to a tumultuous finish with great work on a fiddle / piano finale, let alone some dramatic tambourine punishing. It was not so much a case of blowing the roof off, more shaking the venue to the very foundations!
The last time we crossed paths with Shelly Fairchild was in Oxford as part of the Katy Hurt tour where she was outstanding in the acoustic in the round section. Tonight she was in a much rockier guise with a drummer and guitarist who were getting grips with the new material. Opening with "Damn Good Lover" from her "Buffalo" album this was something of a fearsome vocal delivery, and for the follow up song "Lies" she was equally like a tiger taking the microphone like Ros Stewart. There was no let up in the rocking, "Ready To Fall" was a great piece of country rock. At that Oxford show she premiered an as yet unrecorded song "Whiskey & A Gun", tonight it was reinvented as an all out rocker, this was not a set for subtlety and it now came with a driving guitar and vocals positively belted out. Unfortunately the show was by now somewhat overrunning and commitments elsewhere meant that we had to leave but i'm assured the rocking continued apace.!!