Katy Hurt, Gasoline & Matches & Emilia Quinn - 229 The Venue
An excellently assembled bill was to provide a cracking nights entertainment at 229, each alone could easily have justified the price of admission but to get all three together was simply outstanding.
If there is one London debut we've been waiting for it was Emilia Quinn, her debut EP is probably one of the most startling things you'll hear all year so it was always going to be interesting to see how the person behind those songs would appear live. Taking to the stage she was perhaps slightly smaller than i'd expected but easily seemed to grow an inch or two when placed in front of the mic stand, exuding a level of confidence. It was a confidence that could easily have been knocked when some early technical difficulties meant that she ended up playing the set on one guitar having to retune each time rather than her planned two guitar approach.
Opening with "For Your Heartache", with her expressive guitar playing backed up with a stomp pedal for extra oomph, her vocal strong and powerful and if the pre show difficulties had caused any nerves they clearly were not evident. Her favourite track from her debut EP, is "Sorry Momma" and live it was, if anything more intense, with the volume gradually building.
Moving on to the blues of "Nothing To Lose", Emilia revealed both a smouldering delivery, and then a raw rocking vocal.
It was back to the EP for "Someone Like Me", initially starting with a gentle vocal over a barely strummed guitar before revving up into something entirely different, faster and louder and with a cutting chorus, exactly the sort of song that made the EP stand out. A slightly unexpected cover came in the shape of Luke Combs "Beer Never Broke My Heart" with Emilia sounding authentically country and having something of an edge about her, to allow her to carry the song off believably. Part of the fascination about Emilia was finding out what other material she had in her locker, and the recently written "Outlaw" was extremely promising, sassy with a great chorus, the way Emilia powered out the "I want your love" of the chorus was great edgy rocking country.
Her closing song was her next single, "Mistakes" which came with the teaser that it will come with a full band when released, This brooding stomp of a stripped back version only made you want to hear more. For many this was to be their first glance of Emilia, and it was fascinating to see many faces quite used to seeing new acts be completely blown away by her short but highly entertaining set
If truth be told #TEAM21 have probably stood next to Gasoline & Matches at Festivals and gigs many more times than we've actually seen them play live and until now we've never seen them with a full band and what a difference that made. As a duo they were great, as a band they were nothing short of sensational, a shimmering cymbal introduction led into the high octane almost rockabilly of "Fool's Gold", Sally Rea Morris delivering a rich powerful country vocal with Steve Marks adding additional vocals as well as some great guitar work
From there it was immediately into the mainstream rocking sound of "If You Wanna Stay", with the twin electric guitars and vocal giving the whole thing an awesome amount of power. There was even time for Steve to pull off some shameless guitar hero poses - it was great fun, Continuing through their debut EP Sally Rea made for a powerful lead on "Not Into Country"
There was new impressive material in "Patient Wolves" about "men and their intentions", which had an almost traditional feel shot through the Gasoline and Matches prism, with the twin vocals again working a charm and ending on a wolf howl from Steve. Any song introduced with the words "Co written with Jenn Bostic" is always destined to be a belter and "Could've Been A Love Song" did not disappoint, nicely wordy and matched to a cracking chorus delivered with some aplomb.
A set delivered with such intensity had to eventually take a breather, and when it did. it did it in style, "Tequila's A Healer" came with a lovely back story, and this slow ballad was excellently delivered, It was then time to play the song that has launched T Shirts, Mugs and posters for the band, "Never Have I Ever" which is something of a showcase for Sally Rea to showcase her sense of humour, acting and timing in one song as it needs all three to work perfectly and tonight it was just that!
Closing out in rocking style with "Smiling Viper" this capped off a highly entertaining performance, in great style punctuated with some great crisp rapid rifle fire drumming.
Every time we see Katy Hurt she seems to pack her bill with quality support acts, which means that she knows that each night she must give absolutely 100% to ensure she is not upstaged, and after the opening two acts nothing short of her best was going to do.
With an inimitable Ray Jones introduction, it was straight into her "Unfinished Business" EP with "Drink", delivered as something of a rootsy rocker with volume, with Katy in an outfit that could surely have got tour sponsorship from Cellotape. The second song "Sleeping Next To You" was again delivered at some volume with Katy's voice left way too far back in the mix, it was something that was immediately corrected for the next song and was one of the few misplaced steps in the evening and was soon forgotten by the time the next song "The World Ain't Waiting On Me" had finished. A superior piece of soulful country rock in a John Mayer mould which was well suited to Katy's talents
In a night of a number of styles Katy would next turn to the blues for "Gasoline", with the band reduced in volume allowing Katy to shine, including a ridiculously long held note at the end!
There were a number oftimes when the show just lifted itself to a whole new stratosphere, the first was a 2 song run that started with "It Sounds Good in A Bar" which saw Emilia Quinn return to the stage for a duet. This tale of a struggling musician, the underdog song, that the Country music crowd always takes to its heart saw a great meeting of talents on one stage. From there it was a straight into "Natchez" which came with the extraordinary introduction that Katy was surprised that everyone kept requesting it, as it is a slower song. There are 2 reasons i'd suggest that it gets asked for most, the first being that it is one of her most mature and measured songs, the second being that it is a song that highlights her undoubted talents to their best.
Another of those magic moments came with the 2 song combo of "Before The Ice Melts" and "On The Ride Home". The former which seem to have been in Katy's catalogue for a couple of years without being recorded is simply magnificent, it has a touch of Fleetwood Mac about it and they'd probably beg to be able to use it, it seems exactly the direction she should be heading in to this humble reviewer. Matching it with "On The Ride Home" was a great decision and works exceptionally well, with the band just toned down a little - it brings the best out of them and Katy.
There was something of a party atmosphere for "See Ya Later" before the final one of those extra special moments, probably the highlight of Katy's night with the crowd singing along to "Unfinished Business" to the point she could not hold back the tears. Once again it is the mature writing and the ballad delivery that has caused her fans to take this song to their hearts, and hopefully when she comes to record her new album next year she'll look back on tonight and ponder on the bits that worked really well and use them as reference points for how good the new songs need to be to get on the album. If she can do that, the great leap forwards will surely follow. Such was the reaction to it, that many of the audience were shouting out "Sing it again"!!
A quite excellent evening closed out with an encore of "Revved Up" part of her ZZ Hurt repertoire, working well as a closing party piece. Three acts, all with seemingly bright futures ahead - it will be fascinating to see how far each can go.