Talentbanq's 3rd Birthday party took so long in coming that it eventually morphed into a 5th Birthday party instead. It is an organisation that does so much for unsigned artists, providing them showcases in all sorts of places, giving them exposure, a chance to hone their skills and perhaps most importantly of all payments! As we emerged from the various lockdowns it was Talentbanq who teased us out of our overlong covid enforced hibernation with open air shows at Ecclestone Yards. They have brought music to the Hard Rock Hotel and Cafe Nero to name but two but on any given night they are putting on multiple events, in fact over 3000 across their short life span. They seem not to be constrained by genre, all they ask of their acts is passion and talent which they seem to have in abundance.
229 proves to be an excellent venue for the gathering, the smaller venue proving invaluable for a VIP reception including a taster set from Dylan Holloway who gave another insight into the support provided by Talentbanq, while the larger venue with its large, high stage, well equipped for sound and lighting would prove ideal for what was to follow.
It's the second time we've crossed paths with Joe Slater and each time he's always had to squeeze in his set before heading off to another engagement - tonight it was to be in time for a train. Last time round he again preceded Morganway, but at the Camden Chapel, where he was more of a troubadour singer songwriter, tonight, the intensity was there but the sound was more the blues. Introduced by our ever amiable host Ray Jones, Joe was described affectionately as a "bundle of trouble".
Armed with acoustic guitar and harmonica he opened with something of a blues mash up between "My Babe" and "Baby Please Don't Go". Things got a little more souful with the uptempo "Every Time It Storms", where Joe's soulful vocals had any hint of too much smoothness, rubbed off them from his native Liverpool accent, it all made for a good listen. Joe's 2019 single "Lady" followed, and he clearly was not happy with the volume being output, as halfway through a quick converation with the sound man saw Joe's vocals and guitar become significantly louder and he ended the song with a wry smile.
Adding a harmonica back into the mix "Nothing Ever Seems To Change" saw Joe shift back to being more of a troubadour once again, the chorus wonderfully pleaded and just as it reached its climax first time round, a little showmanship from Joe saw his vocals tail off on the final word of ""All I see is you" - it was highly effective. The end of the song saw it suddenly speed up, with Joe's guitar playing matching the power in his vocals.
A spur of the moment last minute change saw Joe change his mind about what he was going to play next mid introduction, with a self composed song being jettisoned in place of an Elvis Presley medley! Joe's version of "Heartbreak Hotel" saw a return to the bluesy vocals of the start and conveyed real "Heartbreak". Things then morphed into "Blue Suede Shoes" and then "Hound Dog"which was slowed to a bluesy drawl and just as it seemed he had finished, it futherer morphed into an extended piece of rock and roll virtuso guitar, eventally returning for a final reprise of "Heartbreak Hotel". True to his word less than a minute or two after coming off stage he was heading through the crowd, guitar case in hand heading for his train.
For some bands, repeated viewing gradually lets daylight in and the magic somehow disappears, for Morganway if you've seen then 20 times, you will spot something you had previously missed when you see them for the 21st! They've outgrown 30 minute sets and even an hour now means there's a risk that one of your favourite tunes may now by omitted. Tonight will be a bravura performance driven along at a furious pace, even the few moments where the pace is not breakneck, it will be full of high intensity in other ways.
It is Nicole J Terry's wistful violin that signals that things are about to begin. Like an orchestra warming up, she is swiftly joined by Matt playing some piano, Kieron having a gentle strum on his electric guitar, and there's a shimmer of cymbals as well. Ed Bullinger;s drumsticks count in the start to "Devil's Canyon" and Kieron kicks in with the familiar opening riff. Already so much is happening that it almost goes unnoticed that lead singer SJ Mortimer is not in position however she will arrive just in time for the opening line. For much of the song and indeed seemingly most of the night, each time we glanced over at Kieron he was being doused in dry ice as if he were on fire and someone was trying to put him out, he still managed to rock back and forth while hitting scorching notes. Behind him Matt seemed to be under a revolving green light, which highlighted his bobbing head as he played, while Ed powering out the backbeat on the drum riser shared the Matt's green light and also occasionally a bright white spotlight. With Nicole displaying her trademark stomp and Callum pounding the bass, it all provided the perfect backing for SJ to all but strip the wallpaper off the venue with her vocal onslaught. The chorus would then see all six providing lead or backing vocals at some point, to great effect. It all ends on a thumping three notes to be met with an enormous roar from the appreciative crowd - and that was just the opening song!!
Callum's solo bass would provide the opening to "Going Nowhere", giving something of a Stranglers like punky intro into one of the unrecorded songs to make an appearance on the night, It's a curious mix, part folky stomp, that agressive bass sound, Nicoles emphasisiing