Morganway, Joe Slater, The Molotovs - 229 The Venue - Talentbanq 5th Birthday Party
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 fiddle, and Ed, a perpetual blur providing an array of drum sounds and still finding room for a Kieron solo, while the wall of vocals wash over you.
Older tunes like "My Love" still sound as exciting ever, where Kieron's guitar and Nicole's fiddle provide the perfect interaction and the vocals and movement of the band are sublime. Seemingly able to conjure up great atmospheres for each of their tunes, Morganway are already building the soundscape for the single "Come Over" as SJ completes her introduction to it, - it has a brooding menace to it from Kieran's picked out few notes, and SJ tales of "I feel danger lying with strangers" that come to a head in the chorus that all but explodes in front of you such is the ferocity.
It almost imperceptively segues into "Frozen In Our Time", which allows for a little break in pace however it soon builds to a musical masterpiece. Once again you pick out star performers across the stage, Matt's atmospheric keys matched by Kierons guitar work, while Nicole's violin is simply divine. This song is probably SJ's tour de force, be it her vocals which are high and low, loud and soft, or her expressive hand movements as if controlled by a puppetmaster from above the stage - this was theatre - high drama at that - SJ's final notes all but siren like luring sailors to shore! As it finishes SJ says "that song - it takes everything!" and undoubtedlt everything was given.
The most welcome news of the evening was the announcment that the next Morganway album has been recorded, it was then joined by the debut of a new song crypically written as "Man / Don't Turn The Lights On" on the set list, starting like Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" on acid, the familiar element of a Morganway song are there, it may start quiet but Ed's quiet yet constantly tappng beat feels like a gunpowder fuse burning - and sure enough it is not long before it detonates! - into a glorous mix of drums, guitars and vocals and a fearsome finale with all six members at full throttle - even on first hearing it immediately felt at home in the Morganway catalogue.
There was time for a cover of Alanis Morissette's "Not Enough", with SJ easily able to channel her inner Alanis before moving on to the song that may well be the one that sends Morganway to the big leagues. A big drum intro initiates the clapping that will eventually led to the irresistible chant that comes with "The Day The World Stopped Running". This is the song where Callum takes lead vocals and he sounds ever more confident each time we hear him, not hard when you have such a cast iron tune behind you. Everything about this song seems epic down to the smallest details like Nicole at times picking her violin strings. It is joyous uplifting infectious and deserves to take them far.
From the sublime to the ridiculous - Nicole, Ed and Matt combining to make the dramatic intro that sounds as if it sits underneath a black and white silent film, yet just as the heroine tied to the tracks is about to be run over it bursts into "Wait For Me", a song driven by Ed's drumming and Nicole's fiddle, not forgetting SJ leading from the front hlding the mic in her hand. It comes with a furious pace, Nicole's fiddle along with Ed's drumming giving that incessant feeling of accelaration throughout, with SJ as ever matching with impeccable vocals.
The closing of any Morganway show is always an exhilarating race to the end, tonight they will slightly change the order with perennial encore "Hurricane" promoted to the main set, which would then close with "London Life" during which a dancing blur would pass the #TEAMw21 team - later revealing itself to be Talentbanq main man Ray Jones himself, no-one is immune to the rhythms of that song. An encore of "Let Me Go" would bring down the curtain on yet another magnificent Morganway performance.
For any act following Morganway is an almost impossible thing, yet fair play to The Molotovs that made a pretty good job of it. Admittedly they are a little outside our normal remit but this trio of teenagers brought the sort of energy and volume it was hard to ignore. One thing is for sure their parents have impeccable tastes as their influences from The Jam, The Who, Green Day, to The White Stripes all shone through. My normal beef with this kind of act is they are pastiches of the originals using speed and noise to cover up a lack of talent, but this certainly did not seem to be the case here. From lead singer and guitarist Mat who had his Paul Weller movements down to perfection, while sounding like a cross between Billy Bragg and Billie Joe Armstrong, through to striking bassist and vocalist Issey who would occasionally have the WIlko Johnson stare about her leaving Ice at the back, hidden from sight providing the power drumming. It was loud, rawkus and utterly compelling - loved every second of it and it sent #TEAMw21 home with a beaming smile to see such an act exists - best of luck to them,