O2 Academy3 Birmingham 18th January 2014.
So 2014’s giggin year starts here and now for me and it really is a case of out with the old and in with the new, as all our five contenders for this event are a brand new experience for me and sit well outside my staple musical diet of rock and metal.
Opening up tonight was the solo acoustic artiste, Sir. O (aka Saar Oron). A little bit of background reading had uncovered Saar’s love for playing the guitar from an early age and listening to him play, it became quite apparent that man, musical instrument and vocal chords were truly meant to be. Having said that, the life of a solo artiste on stage can be a lonely one, but not tonight as for one song only Sir. O became a duo, courtesy to the beautiful supporting vocals from Lir Shilton. With the sound at the O2 being perfect for Saar’s set, each song was compelling to listen to and if his intention tonight was to raise awareness of his talent, he certainly achieved that!
Taking solo performance to the next level, Sean Duggan’s set was initially launched with the able support of three band mates on bass, electric guitar and drums. Sean is quite a master of delivering the feeling good vibe in a very chilled manner, and his infectious charm on stage soon had the audience moving closer and happily foot tapping and dancing along to his beat. Another set given that was a pleasure to hear and see and another artiste to look out for.
The midway point of the evening heralded a change in musical direction for tonight courtesy of the three remaining bands and boy, oh boy, what a great experience that was to be!
I can only describe Red Crow’s set as an absolute privilege to have witnessed, as the humble confidence that poured out of these guys in both their ability and originality, simply smacked me in the face and stopped me dead in my tracks. Their intricate acoustic guitar and vocal melodies mixed with the creative use of double bass, keyboard and trumpet, whipped up a perfect storm of rock, bluegrass and hillbilly frivolity that all translated into one heck of a performance! Standout songs in tonight’s set for me were ‘City Riser’ and ‘Rising Son’, both of which can be found on their EP ‘Roots In The Soil’. It is bands such as Red Crow that pull you out of your musical comfort zone and show you the door to a whole new world – and when you step on through, what an inspirational world it is too.
For those who regularly attend Emma Scott’s gigs, two members of our fourth band, The Strangler Figs, would have looked becomingly familiar, as both Joe Pickering (vocals) and Joel Hanson (on Double Bass tonight) are also part of the much loved and well respected Duchamp Pilot. In their new entity, Strangler Figs venture into the realms of a semi-acoustic delight that is rich in foot tapping character and lush in the glow of its performance. Considering this band is less than six months in age since it’s conception, their self penned songs are strong, catchy and give great definition of what it is that makes this band tick, so I shall look forward to watching Stranglers Fig’s journey, as I suspect it is going to be a successful one.
Our final and headlining band for tonight were Rhino & The Ranters and here lies a whole new chapter to be added to the extent of my musical experience. Suited, booted and fittingly coiffed for an excursion into the wild world of crazy cowpunk, shameless gospel and all round wanton good times, Rhino & The Ranters made light work in announcing to the audience at The O2 Academy that they had arrived!
I can only describe the set that followed as being one of those experiences that leaves you feeling lucky to have witnessed, as the level of energy and euphoria on stage, courtesy of main man at the mic, Ryan Webb, was infectious and even now whilst I’m sat writing this, there is still a smile on my face from the memory of their performance.
Tonight’s show was a musical wildcard event for me, but my, oh my, what an amazing experience it was indeed!
Review and photography by Sue Wardle.