There is always a slight buzz in the air when the Green Note is Sold Out and packed to the rafters. Tonight there was something of a party atmosphere, for not only the London launch of the new Morganway album but also for a certain coming of age of our host, compere and massive live music supporter Ray Jones. Each attendee was warmly welcomed by Ray who did an excellent job in detailing how special the venue is and how marvelous each of the acts were going to be.
The evening commenced with a shortish set from Katie Plus Juan, St Alban's finest, tonight with a plus one in the shape of George who would prove to be skilled in both saxophone and keyboard. Katie spent the set perched on her cajon, with a tambourine wrapped around her right boot and when not providing percussion on the cajon she was also able to add some guitar to the overall sound. Juan looking dapper in his waistcoat and woolly hat was also able to double up as required on either acoustic or bass guitar.
Their sound was a curious mixture, a blend of soul, pop, country with at times a jazz vibe going on that was always entertaining. The opening song "Back Track" certainly opened with a soulful feel and a snazzy instantly likeable chorus, with George adding a distinctly jazzy sounding sax solo. That jazz feel carried on into "Fool Moon" with Juan again taking the lead vocals while playing an effortless almost lazy relaxed guitar style. Katie took the lead for the next song "Wasted" which she prefaced by saying she was embarking on a "1 Year No alcohol" challenge, once again there was a deliciously smooth chorus with Katie picking out in fine detail the perils of having too much to drink.
The set gradually moved into a more soulful direction with "When You're Young", from their debut album enhanced by some stylish flourishes from George on piano. Also from the album was the touching ballad "Better Days", with Katie delivering a moving tale of her Dad, with Juan throwing in a bass solo for good measure. A shared family dynamic was the background to "Bloodlines", while Katies short sighted boyfriend was the inspiration for the closing song of their set "Favourite Sight", a nice uptempo number to close on.
Before the main event there was a special mini set from Saskia Griffiths-Moore who was a late addition to the bill, who wanted try out three brand new, never performed songs that will form part of her new approach to 2020. If you are going to try out a batch of new songs then the Green Note, with its renowned listening audience is as good a place as any and the 3 songs even in a stripped back format hinted at interesting times ahead.
"Let The Light In" with its "ooh" intro was a superior sounding pop song with Saskia's vocals retaining some of their folkiness. There were some neat lyrics and the message of remembering to stay with those who support you was well delivered.
The second premiere was "The Edge", which Saskia told us was about dealing with depression and anxiety as she played a delicate guitar refrain. It was a ballad and again the lyrics were well considered and quite pointed in the second verse spelling out some home truths, yet still delivered with such a delicate touch,
A potentially risky move followed with the third and final song with the announcement of a potential singalong for "Where Are We Heading?". In truth I think Saskia must have known this was a winner of a tune and sure enough after just one run through the Green Note was soon raising the rafters. This was a rousing, eco anthem, damn good fun and Saskia visibly enjoyed the response that it received, so the chorus was replayed two or three times at the end for good measure.
This was always destined to be a superb night with one of the best live bands around, playing in London's finest music venue, the only question to be answered was how a band renown for being quite so mobile was going to cope with being confined to the small Green Note stage. With Ed's drum kit, and Matt's keyboard taking up at least 50% of the stage it was always going to be squeeze for the other four members. Kieran and his pedal board were tightly squeezed into one corner with very little room for manouvere, he probably of all the players had to make the most adjustment on the night with trademark power chords occasionally making way for a more subtle yet well chosen approach. With SJ once again sporting the trademark Morganway tambourine, and Callum up front, that left fiddle player Nicole Terry precariously stood behind Callum somehow managing to miss being hit by a guitar from an occasional enthusiastic swing around. It was all very compact but with everyone wedged in and a glowing introduction from Ray, history was ready to be made.
The opening salvo of "Devils Canyon" And "My Love Ain't Gonna Save You" immediately showed us a couple of things, Ed's drumming was a virtual masterclass for drummers playing at the Green Note who sometime fail to take into account the size of the venue. The slightly toned down playing really brought out the excellent keyboard playing and put the lead vocals at the forefront of the mix to great effect. Finally small stage of not, nothing was going to curtail Nicoles stomp while simultaneously playing and providing backing vocals, an essential ingredient to any Morganway show.
This was after all an album launch and it was great to hear the lesser played songs in such a great environment, kicking off with "Coming Home" with Nicole & Callum getting things started, before the band eventually kicked in. With a divine fiddle solo towards the end and Callum's acoustic guitar high in the mix this was one of many treats on the night. For "Let Me Go" it was SJ's vocals and tambourine that were to provide most of the trademark rowdy element to great effect, though the blur of vocals in the closing section, mixed with the twin solos from Kieran and Nicole did take the Green Note to hitherto unsurpassed volume levels I'm guessing - absolutely breathtaking stuff.
"I Want No Other Love" opened to Callum strumming and the ladies of the band duetting the opening with the highlight of this song being the section in which intiially the vocals and then the instruments build to an absolutely stunning climax, such was the power it was hard to tell if it was SJ's vocals or a random balloon that had suddenly appeared that had caused the odd glass to audibly break. At the other end of the spectrum "Daylight Rising" was beautifully delicate with Nicole's fiddle almost singing such was the beauty in the playing, not to be outdone Kieran followed with an elegant piece of guitar work of his own to conclude the song.
Another of the new songs "I See People" was truly triumphant with a glorious organ sound coming through. A truly storming main set came to an end with "London Life" with the back of the Green Note as much a blur of activity with dancing, mirroring the frantic motion occurring onstage.
The encore was the inevitable "Hurricane" which was stunning end to the evening if also slightly unintentionally hilarious with Callum stepping off stage to allow Nicole to do a final solo centre stage, which left her unable to reach the Callums mic to do the final backing vocals untli a hastily improvised sharing system could be worked out. it was exhilarating to see the smiles of the band and the power of the performance.
The evening ended with Ray offering to pay for the flights of everyone when Morganway play Madison Square Gardens and the organisers of the Isle Of Wight Festival offering the Morganway team a slot on the bill off the back of the performance, it was that kind of night!!