Morganway / Joe Slater Camden Chapel
It's an unusually busy evening at the Camden Chapel, downstairs at the other venue in the Centre the Wolfetones are playing to a packed crowd while upstairs Morganway and Joe Slater are playing to a slightly smaller but equally sold out crowd, so there are slightly more folk than usual staring at the toilet doors with the signs in gaelic wondering which one to choose!!
It is a first chance for #TEAMw21 to catch up with Joe Slater, we've heard lots of good things, and this short 5 song set has only piqued our interest further. Hailing from Croxteth, something that would occasionally filter through into his singing, he was great company from the opening song "The Traveller", with its harmonica intro and outro. With a rich slightly raspy voice, and seemingly effortless guitar style he had all the traits of a perfect troubadour.
A reviewers dream, in that he clearly announces every song, he continued with "Lady", a song with slower bluesy feel that kept the Chapel crowd transfixed, and then when he stood back and let rip his vocals it was easy to see what all the fuss about him was.
His songwriting is immediately impressive and songs like "Nothing Ever Seems To Change" capture your attention from the opening line and you can't help but admire Joe as extracts every millisecond of sound from his guitar as he holds it in a number of poses and positions. This was excellent stuff.
The appearance of the Wolfetones downstairs inspired Joe to dig out an old song from his repertoire, "Caledonia". He did say he wasn't sure if he'd remember the lyrics and intentionally or not he certainly changed the words "friends" to "loved the women" in the second verse but there is no denying that this was a superb version
With a Foy Vance show to attend across town at the Palladium, he closed out his set with "To The Creator", which had some pointed lyrics wrapped up in an effortlessly likable tune which found time to incorporate "All You Need Is Love" from his fellow Liverpool compatriots.
There's a line in the song "Homely Girl" by the Chi Lites that says "I saw then what they see now" and as Ray Jones starts another of his inimitable introductions for Morganway you cannot but agree with him - we are lucky to be seeing them in such intimate venues and in years to come when people are saying "I wish I had seen them at a smaller venue" the folks in the Camden Chapel audience will be able to quote that line back! It is the final gig of the year for Morganway which has seen the release of their debut album as well as host of festival appearances including C2C at the O2, an Under The Apple Tree session, residencies in London and a prestigious sold out show at The Green Note for which the tickets were snapped up in minutes.
Tonight's small stage means a slight reshuffle in the line up with fiddle player Nicole Terry moving to the right of the stage and drummer Ed using brushes for the majority of the evening to adapt to the venue but other than that it is business as usual for one of the finest live bands you will ever see.
Starting with "Devils Canyon", Kieran's guitar intro perfectly setting the scene for SJ Mortimer to open the vocals as well as providing some forceful tambourine playing. The twin vocals of Callum and SJ open up "My Love Ain't Gonna Save You" pretty much alone apart from Callum's acoustic guitar before the full band join in after the chorus. The joy of watching Morganway is that even if you've seen them before they almost certainly won't play the song exactly the same way the next time you see them.
The uptempo shuffle of "In a Dream (Coming Home)" with Nicole's fiddle coming prominently to the fore courtesy of some quality mixing, taking the song to another level along with some superb drumming from Ed driving things along. With "Let Me Go" following, it was time to get rawkus, Kieran starting things off with a "self indulgent guitar intro", the audience bursting into a clapping beat as the song started proper, It was to be a night of Kieran guitar solo's and he seemed genuinely taken aback and raised his eyebrows in surprise as one his solos received a spontaneous round of applause mid song, The songs as ever builds to an ever powerful climax built around the "Let me go " chant and Kieran's screaming guitar. There was no time for a breather as we went straight into "You Can Only Die Once" which has now turned into something of a piece of theatre with the band at one point dropping to the quietest they could possibly be, with Ed's brush barely touching the drum and Nicole's bow hardly making contact with her fiddle, leaving Callum & SJ to then pick things up at a whisper before the whole band kick in to drive the track to a conclusion - mesmerising and gripping to watch - as Kieran managed to throw in a Knopfleresque guitar solo as well.
A shift in pace and in the stage layout saw Callum and Nicole switch places for "I Want No Other Love" as it starts with SJ and Nicole on lead vocals. It is a song of two halves, the first gentle and acoustic the second half a building swirling atmospheric masterpiece - which ended with an audience member audibly unconsciously shouting "wow!" such is the power this band can create.
The new song "Across This Land" comes with a bit of audience participation becoming a key part of the chorus. Another song that has become something of a tour de force is "Frozen In Our Time", it again is a song that starts quietly with Matt's keyboards and SJ gently singing, before building into something quite masterful that highlights the relationship between Kieran's guitar and Nicole's fiddle to great effect as it becomes an undoubted epic ending with SJ's haunting vocal.
The closing section saw the crowd rise to its feet for the joyful stomp of "London Life" which now has its own video well worth checking out and the sheer power of "Hurricane", itself a force of nature. Their final song of 2019 that was to send the crowd home smiling was Morganway's dark brooding menacing cover of "Jolene" including Matt's somewhat unique piano solo, Nicole's exquisite fiddle solo and a final rock out from Kieran.
Final words from Ray Jones only confirmed what we already knew that this band are going places and that this had been the finest show that had graced the Camden Chapel since its opening. Morganway already have a UK tour booked for 2020 and it will be fascinating to see just how far they can go.