It was Poppy Fardell along with Devon Mayson who were the first artists to get #TEAMw21 back to live reporting duties with their Ecclestone Yard show. It was an excellent afternoon however both reporter and performers were easing their way back into their respective roles after an extended layoff and both showed signs of ring rustiness. Leap forward six months and the person before us is almost a different person entirely, buoyed by the success of a sold out solo show at the Camden Chapel, Poppy is not just back where she was pre pandemic, she has shifted up another gear entirely.
Starting the evening unannounced with arguably her strongest song "Hayley", was something of a statement of intent and confidence in the rest of her material, For what was effectively an away gig, it was immediately apparent that there was a lot of love in the house for Poppy, even to the degree of devotion, and unrequested the audience were soon joining in on the irrisistible chorus.
From the dystopian world of "Hayley", it was over to the fashion world for "Double Denim", the tale of things that shouldn't go together yet do. It may be an unreleased song however it has been a mainstay of Poppy's sets for some time, and everything about it tonight, from the playing to Poppy's phrasing suggest she has it now completely nailed down. Her ability to transform songs in the live environment is one that is surely going to see her go far, "Hometown Hero" from her "Better Start" EP, fine in its recorded version, seemed to take on a new level of intensity and believability as we travelled with Poppy to an alternate timeline where she had never left her hometown or her hometown beau. Similarly "Drive" had something of a additional joyful bounce about it, effortlessly inviting the crowd to join in for the chorus, an invite they were quick to take up.
Poppy's overall stage craft is also on top form oozing confidence, it was nice to see her reassess her set list after thinking about the mood in each song. So it was another unrecorded song co written with Sue McMillan, "Beer Budget" that came next which managed to attach some real world economics to a big time Americana singalong tune, while managing to make some nice observations along the way. There was to be but one cover in the quality seven song set and that was to be The Chick's "Travelling Soldier", which over recent years along with "Jolene" are something of a go to for Country performers with few artists actually adding anything to the originals. However much like Morganway's reinvention of "Jolene", Poppy was able to imbue this performance with a sense of realism, by really focussing on the lyrics to the opening verse to the point that you could almost visualise the characters in front of you as she sung, in a way I've not noticed anyone really do before.
When we first encounted Poppy at Vic Allen's EP launch, "Better Start" was another of her stand out songs the chorus with the striking line about not liking the aftertaste of whiskey. It still retains all of its initial qualities that charmed us that day, and like "Hometown Hero", Poppy is able extract every inch of pathos with some excelent delivery. It is currently the time for poppies and this Poppy certainly gave us something to remember, and received a well earned ovation.
On entering the Slaugtered Lamb, it was noticeable that there seemed to be a lot less chairs than we remembered, it was only as Morganway prepared to take to the stage that the reason why became apparent, the venue was more or less full and there were many new faces who had heard the word of mouth surrounding this band.
Our intention was not really to cover Morganway tonight, our last review from the Half Moon ( https://www.w21music.com/post/country-in-the-afternoon-day-2-morganway-gasoline-matches-sandy-mclelland-chris-mossop ) but a few short weeks ago, hopefully gave a feeling of the excitement that one of their shows generates. With the band squeezed on to a tiny stage this did not seem seem set to be a night of Morganway at their most mobile and memorable. So tightlly was Callum packed into one corner of the stage it led to him accidentally whacking his guitar into the air conditioning ducting which perilously low above his head, As things turned out Morganway provided their own indoor fireworks for Guy Fawkes night with the assistance of some excellent sound desk work, unveiling a batch of excellent new tunes. and no lack of space was going to stop SJ and Nicole from their customary stomping activities.
Initially things were as expected with "Devils Canyon" opening the set, the band having since played a number of dates since "Country In The Afternoon" sounded exceptionally tight, SJ's voice, perhaps a little hoarse from playing Brighton the previous night actually found new heights to hit. It was just as the "Coming Home" drew to a close that the first of the new songs appeared, "Spread The Light" had an almost tribal feel and immediately sounded like an old friend. No sooner had that completed then another new song "Come Over" that had featured at CITA reappeared, immediately notable for Kierans excellent guitar work and another killer chorus with vocals as ever coming from everywhere on the stage,
Another new song "Halfway Tonight" with Callum on excellent lead vocal took the bands sound in yet another new direction while still retaining the key elements of the band, like excellent fiddle playing from Nicole and a fantastic madcap organ solo from Matt that got it's own round of applause mid song. Even on first hearing this was truly exceptional and will only get better. The next song began with as dramatic an opening as one could imagine before SJ launched into the vocals, which on the chorus were nothing less than fearsome. Then came the hypnotic melody that runs through "When The World Stopped Running" which has the ability to make a whole room sing along, another soon to be Morganway classic if it isn't already!.
The closing blistering section of Alanis Morrisette's "Not Enough" along with an explosive "Let Me Go" while a double encore of "London Life" and "Hurricane" got them a deserved standing ovation. Each time it seems that this band cannot get any better they take your expectations and rip them to shreds.
Morganway will return to the London stage on January 27th 2022 at 229 - DO NOT MISS IT!!!!!!