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  • Writer's pictureCHRIS FARLIE

Live Review!! - The Road To Madison Square Gardens!! feat Morganway & Isabella Coulstock

The somewhat cryptic title to tonights event was inspired and promoted by Talentbanq Supremo Ray Jones, who has championed both of tonights performers with the proud boast that when they play Madison Square Gardens that he will fly out the assembled audience who were there at the start of the journey, to see its conclusion. Now Ray is nothing if not a showman and he knows that the chance of this bravado ever being called in are probably quite slim yet equally he is aware that such a leap in circumstances has been achieved before, by a certain Mr Sheeran. Ray like #TEAMw21 is a passionate believer in both of tonights artists and I suspect that were the day to come, and either of tonights acts repeated that giant leap to star in New York City, then no-one would be more pleased to splash out than Ray!. Let's face it those gracing the Green Note's tiny stage tonight, are both kegs of gunpowder just waiting for the tiniest spark of luck that will see their careers explode, propelling them towards the Big Apple!!

It was only a few months ago that Isabella Coulstock graced this very stage and caused #TEAMw21 to label her destined to be one of the faces of 2023, and nothing from tonights showing gives us any cause to doubt that prediction, as long as she actually gets round to releasing something - and then things might start to happen! It's hard to quite express just how assured a performer Isabella is , "Nice Ain't A Good Colour For Me" which opens the set, sees some of the most strident and confident guitar playing that you will see anywhere on the UK Americana circuit, male or female - she even found time while singing to quickly pose for a nearby snapper.

Isabella's excellent guitar playing was to the fore once more on the Chaz Jankel co write "Broken" - as someone who got to see Chaz Jankel play with Ian Dury & The Blockheads - it only endears Isabella to us even more when she says "Everyone knows Ian Dury?" when he was sadly deceased before Isabella was born - "What A Waste!". For this one Isabella's strumming style is more akin to Billy Bragg - the vocals that accompany it are exceptional - the extended notes of the chorus are dealt with as if they are nothing to be bothered about. The other charming feature about watching Isabella is the look of sheer joy on her face as she plays - rarely have we ever seen someone so at ease and clearly enjoying themselves.

On her last showing at the Green Note, we made a big fuss about the song "Riverside", it is storytelling of the highest order with well rounded vignettes of characters. For this tune Isabella plays the most gentlest of guitar parts - overwhich she lays the most beautiful of vocals - truly moving. A quick relocation to the piano only once again reminded us of how multi talented she is - opening initially to a one handed intro on Who Do You Think You Are?" before going on to prove she was equally adept on piano as she was on guitar. The final chorus initially starting as a breathy a capella before building to a final climax that drew an audible "Wow" from an audience member enraptured by what he had just seen.

It was back to the guitar for "Fast" a driving getaway tune, before Isabella decided it was time for the Green Note to break out into song - starting "Honky Tonk Beer" a capella, to remind the crowd of its irresistible tune - once again Isabella's broad smile was infectious, her long hair swaying as she swiveled whist playing and sure enough, three minutes later - the Green Note was indeed a honky tonk with the whole room joining in. The set closed with the song written at the tender age of 13 - "Crazy Cowboy" - by all rights it should be a pastiche of songs Isabella was listening to at the time yet seven years later it still sounds great. Naturally there had to be an encore - and it came in the anthemic form of "Our Revolution" already sounding like it is ready to join "Don't Look Back In Anger" and "Angels" as one of the nations go to singalong tunes - it really is that good. Isabella's soaring voice sells the song magnificently and with the crowd joining in on its "Hey Jude " style finale, if the evening had ended there we'd have felt that we had been richly rewarded - but then Morganway were waiting in the wings!!

For Morganways first show in a few months there were to be a number of changes that would make this evenings performance unique. With drummer Ed indisposed this was to lead to a whole rethink of how the evening would sound - Callum would ditch his bass guitar and would play acoustic, as would SJ, while Kieran's normally searing guitar sound equally was toned down. Filling the sound gaps were Matt's keyboards, which rose to the front of the mix alongside Nicole J Terry's ever impressive fiddle playing. Even without Ed's drum kit, space on the tiny Green Note stage was at a premium, SJ had to remove and add her guitar with an almost surgeon like precision to avoid hitting anyone, the temporary acoustic line up also gave SJ a chance to explore a different more soulful approach on a couple of songs.

Things would begin like any Mroganyway show with Kieran's guitar intro signalling the start of "Devils Canyon", yet without the drum sound powering things forward, SJ's vocals had a warm soulful timbre to them. The intro to the last years single "Come Over" saw Matt's keyboard laying a nice background for SJ to do the welcoming introductions while Kieran's guitar efforts seemed designed to make contact with a long lost whale at sea before returning to the more expected opening riff - knowing that they would not be able to match the sheer power of the electrified version this was to be a victory for musicality over sheer musical brute force - the insistency created by the fiddle, the electric guitar more sporadic and with extra echo ,the vocals forceful yet only having to battle against the acoustic guitar were able to be more restrained though still conveying plenty of power.

Introduced as an oldie "My Love Ain't Gonna Save You" gave Callum's vocals a chance to truly shine, in the slighlty slower more considered version given a degree of orchestral elegance by Nicole's upfront in the mix playing, while the combined vocals perfectly complemented this new sound.

The news is out - the new album will be called "Back To Zero" available in May and in shiny red vinyl, SJ informed us over a delightful piano intro from Matt. It was Matt and Nicole who would again relish being at the forefront of things - giving the song a dreamy folk like sound in which SJ's vocals excelled.

For the set piece that is "Frozen In Our Time" the new formation was so quiet that you could hear SJ announciate every "t" & "d" such was the crystal clear clarity. The interaction between Kieran and Nicole as ever central to the perfomance as much as SJ's tour de force vocals which veered from angelic to almost demonic.

Never ones'to rest on their laurels there was room for a new song "Don't Turn The Lights On Yet" teasased as being from a potentially already recorded third studio album. With a tune that gradually sped up and with the Morganway trademark multiple vocals, this seems destined to be rocking venues up and down the land on their forthcoming tour.

Matt's cinematic introduction to "Wait For Me" combined with Nicole's fiddle would easily grace a classic black and white movie but here it serves as a prelude for what is to come. This time the duels are between SJ's vocals, Nicoles ever insistent fiddle and Matts piano notes punching through the overall sound - the second half of the song which sees things increasingly speed up is still breathtaking even in this acoustic format.

The song that may well get Ray frantically checking his air miles is undoubtedly "The Day The World Stopped Running", with Callum on lead vocals and the chant that is impossible not join in with. It only seems to get better with repeated listens, with those little details like Nicole plucking her fiddle - it even got its own extended round of applause from the Green Note crowd.

Kieran was allowed to play rock guitar hero on the intro to the awesome "Let Me Go" which sadly signalled that we were entering the home straight but also meant that things were set to ramp up even further than they had before - with SJ seemingly improvising some additional vocals - perhaps they are always there - but tonight they shone!

The main set would close with the full force gale of "London Life", complete with Nicole managing a customary pogo on the tiny stage - the Green Note a mass of audience stomping and clapping.

The encore would see "Hurricane" and maybe for the first time ever the vocals on the verses clearly revealed themselves. As a show it may have lacked the full on power of an electrified show but the acoustic diversions made this an exceptionally wonderful collectors item for their most dedicated fans - the ones heading to Madison Square Gardens later in the year - maybe!

Isabella Coulstock will return to The Green Note ( hopefully for an EP launch!! ) 3rd May

Morganway tour dates below




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