Black Country, New Road Livestream @ Southbank Centre | Live Review

Black country new road live review

Black Country, New Road keep us excited for when live shows return!


In an interview ahead of Black Country, New Road’s livestream gig at the Southbank Centre – bringing their debut album “For The First Time” released on Ninja Tune in February to the virtual masses – saxophone player Lewis Evans was asked to describe the band’s sound. His response was “We make rock music”. This to all intents and purposes would class the 7 piece – the majority of whom met at sixth-form college in Cambridge and then ventured south to London – as a “rock band”. But with free jazz, art-pop and a sense of theatre woven into the fabric of the Gen Z group’s heady mix, this description doesn’t fully cover the true breadth and depth of the band’s rich and varied musical tapestry.

Within a few bars of the syncopated drum and rolling bongo rhythm of “Instrumental” an Eastern European keyboard riff is high tailing it away, pied piper style with guitar and sax following suit. Equal parts 70’s cop theme chase as a klezmer celebration, Prokofiev as post-punk, the track serves as the perfect introduction to their sound. The other vital feature is Isaac Wood’s talismanic vocals whose delivery, whether overlaying Tyler Hyde’s bass riff dirge on the nascent blues of debut single  ‘Athens France’, or lamenting missed opportunities – “Everybody’s coming up I guess I’m a little bit late to the party” – on ‘Opus’, is midway between Jim Morrison style poetic sermon and Neil Hannon tongue-in-cheek vignette.

‘Science Fair’s’ intro hints at Lou Reed’s ‘Metal Machine Music’, the track’s frenzy of noise builds an intensity from which Wood opines “It’s Black Country out there”. Georgia Ellery’s wiry violin affects the same kind of chaos that John Cale brought to the Velvet Underground though here strings are accompanied by splinters of spiralling saxophone.

The folky ‘Track X’, their most linear song, feels like a care-free gambol through Pink Floyd’s ‘Grantchester Meadows’, with a chorus of socially distanced audience members standing up, bringing joyous shafts of light. And this is also the abiding image of how the set ends, after the rhapsodic ‘Basketball Shoes’, the audience seemingly singing praises to the band, with Woods crouched, emotionally drained on the stage, like some kind of catharsis. Rock music yes, but oh so much more.

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