On a cold night in Shepherd’s Bush, what better way to warm up than with Rhode Island’s beautiful acoustic meets rollicking rock and roll - and everything in between - trio The Low Anthem.
Tonight’s openers are another Rhode Island group, Brown Bird, and if the modest crowd got down early because they were hungry for a haunting combination of acoustic folk with interlaced violin harmonies, guitars worn in an unusually flat manner and a massive beard, then they’ll be feeling happy they did.
Next up, Kent’s own David Ford is, in his own words “the English meat in this American sandwich”. Starting his set with just vocals accompanied by percussion from what seems to be a suitcase full of seeds, Ford leads the crowd in a passionate jangly folk set. It’s not particularly original, but it is heartfelt and played with passion, and it goes down very well tonight.
By the time The Low Anthem arrive on stage, the venue seems to have accumulated the tallest crowd in the world. Unseen by a lot of people past the first few rows, the band kick off with a beautiful version of ‘To The Ghosts That Write History Books’, Ben Miller’s voice is on fine form, managing to sound both uplifting and assured, but also fragile. The sound is fantastic, but the venue’s low volume means that each song kicks off with a fair amount of “shooshing” from the audience. Rock and Roll? When you can hear the barmaid shout “£3.80 please!” it might be a tad too quiet.
The set is heavily focussed on tracks from last year’s ‘Oh My God Charlie Darwin’, with ‘To Ohio’ and ‘Ticket Taker’ getting particularly strong reactions from the crowd. However, we’re also treated to some new material, as well as some traditional American folk and country. The band showcases their musical talent by constantly swapping instruments, and when they up the tempo and introduce the drums it provides an excellent contrast to their quieter material.
Tonight the ratio of rock to acoustic is very much tipped towards acoustic - and the band deliver several songs all clustered around a single microphone. The performances are beautiful, evocative and haunting, but when the set isn’t much short of two hours you can’t help but feel that it needs tightening. The Low Anthem are a very special band, but if they reduce their stage time, or increase the number of upbeat tunes, they could turn a good show into a great one.