Thursday, October 27, 2016

Live Review :: North Downs :: The Kings Head, London - Oct 26 2016

Live Review

North Downs

The Kings Head, London

October 26 2016

Words: Mike Dench

Tonight was a journey to the Dalston/Haggerston borders of London town to check out 'mystery' band North Downs playing The Kings Head on Kingsland Road, a pub now turned into a members club.

Not heard of them? Well neither had anyone until just a matter of weeks ago. They have given nothing away, with their social media offering only one track, 'Nothin', as their introduction, but being sufficiently impressive enough to pique interest in a number of directions, send blogosphere wild and also attract the ears of Radio One.

By the time North Downs hit the (gear filled) stage, it was a full house in the small downstairs space that is the gig room at the pub. The Bristol-based four-piece launched into opening number 'Plastic Clouds', and initial nerves (this was only their second gig as a band, the first being on a small barge in Bristol the previous weekend), though they have been session musicians for a number of years - soon disappeared as they hit their stride in front of family, friends and other interested parties.

The songs sound a bit disjointed, but this could be down to the fact that they have yet to hone their live sound because of the studio time they have put in on their upcoming album. The band set up also seems to be a too busy at times, with a drummer, a bassist who also plays keys (or is it a keyboard player who also plays bass?), a singer who also provides backing sounds via a synth and also plays guitar, and a guitarist who provides backing vocals.

For me, it seems they were struggling to recreate their studio sound by being overly industrious with other duties, and only really looking totally relaxed when they are all rocking out with two guitars, bass and drums - which were my favourite parts of the gig. They are good at what they do, but perhaps need to to do a bit less onstage; cutting back or having an extra body to take on the keyboard duties might be a better option.

The set included numbers 'Framed [On Sugar Lane]', 'Half Heard' and 'Sweet Temper' which went from the funky and synth heavy, to indie pop, with a couple of longer instrumental rock outs included. Their 'greatest hit' to date and that for which they are solely known is the aforementioned completely reworked cover of Townes Van Zandt's 'Nothin', and tonight it closes the short set. It is greeted enthusiastically by the assorted throng as might be expected. It sounds just as good live as on record, with those crooning vocals dipping into the electronic textures of throbbing synth and taut guitars.

Would I go and see them again? Yes, as there is enough about them to want to see how they do once they've got a few more gigs behind them. Should you see them? Yes, as these guys have a sound which can appeal to many, and your ears deserve that.

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