Blues Pills

support The Vintage Caravan + Blackwolf
author EW date 18/11/14 venue The Dome, London, UK

Let us congratulate whoever conspired to bring together on tour two of the most youthful yet enjoyable acts from the recent heritage/revival rock scene, as in Blues Pills and The Vintage Caravan you have two bands diligently working the inspiration of numerous 60s and 70s greats into new and exciting propositions. The result - numerous venue upgrades on the tour including a near sold out 500-capacity here - tells a great story and one that I was happy to witness on a dark and wet autumnal night in north London.


Before that though were the sounds of Bristol based hard rockers Blackwolf. British they may be but as a total unknown entity to me until the day of the show I was impressed with the well-developed nature of their tracks, even if they did verge into a fairly generic hard rock/pub rock territory at times, and the vocal prowess of frontman Scott Sharp. His mixture of a fairly strong, slightly nasal delivery mixed with a few impressive high-end screams shook the early evening cobwebs out of those present, the room being no more than a quarter full at this time, and belied his slightly nervous overall swagger even when goading the audience for more noise. Befitting a name that is as generic and dull as 'Blackwolf' is, it hardly needed the performance of the evening's following bands to bring to focus the straight-forward compositions and mollified riffs which constitute the likes of "Relief" and "Moving Mountains", two of a number of tracks harnessing an ability to get the foot tapping and yet be forgotten as soon as the amps stop ringing. While much can be said for avoiding the pitfalls of a retro sound in vogue, as arguably Blackwolf do the best of the evenings trilogy of acts, it is surely better than a template which does not feel tethered to any age, the living embodiment of the simple will to rock and roll left looking lost in the emptiness left behind and allowing for Blackwolf to provide the performance of the perennial opener: decent yet unremarkable.


The Vintage Caravan

On the other hand, The Vintage Caravan have not only written a number of tunes which demand repeat listening they also play as if their lives depended on it. Perhaps that is the benefit of their youthful age and untamed exuberance, not yet eroded away by years of hard slogging for the distinct lack of reward which catches up with so many bands. "Hello London, we are The Vintage Caravan from Iceland" declares exceedingly talented frontman Óskar Logi Ágústsson as the band launch into a set which never ceases to be enthralling whether the band are volleying through engaging up-tempo numbers like "Midnight Meditation" and "Craving" or the kind of slow tunes like "Winterland", one which would make an excellent addition to a wedding party setlist as far as I'm concerned. All this, coming from someone who has now seen the band four times (and thus can no longer experience the surprise joy that comes from a TVC show) and isn't massively over-awed with their debut album "Voyage", all of which I hope emphasises how dynamic and involving this young trio are.

Far from leaving all the work to Ágústsson, a young man who knows his way around a fretboard with more skill and panache that almost any other guitarist I have caught this or any other year, bassist Alexander Örn Númason and drummer Guðjón Reynisson play their part in a performance of unbridled passion. As counterpoint to Ágústsson, Númason is adept at both maintaining the direction of the track as the guitar solos fly around and taking a more forthright stance of his own with his dextrous finger picking technique being gloriously on show in the live arena. Hopefully finding a new appeal to the Classic Rock crowd in situ for the performance of Blues Pills, the Icelandic trio of The Vintage Caravan topped even the brief snippets I caught of them at Roadburn earlier this year, something I was not expecting to happen.


Blues Pills

The spectacular rise of Blues Pills over recent months has been a pleasure to witness for more than the mere joy associated with listening to their music, for the Swedish/French/US fourpiece represent potentially the strongest indie label example of musical prowess triumphing over soulless modern production values, in tandem with a veritable USP in the impassioned vocal delivery of Elin Larsson. Yes, I know the likes of Graveyard, from whom Blues Pills take an enormous influence, might have something to say about that, but the feel-good honesty of this year's self-titled album has elevated Blues Pills into the upper echelons of the pack and with shows selling out quicker than admirers of Larsson are heard to express their infatuation this feels like a good time to see their live showing before an inevitable progression into bigger venues.

Opening with their defining "High Class Woman" it is immediately apparent how BP's live show focusses more on an accurate, personal portrayal of their songs than the energetic performance of TVC. Bassist Zack Anderson and guitarist Dorian Sorriaux - the second sublimely talented young player of the night - are very circumspect, moving little (and emotionally expressing little in the case of Anderson, a man who must be a great poker player) throughout, leaving the eye-catching Larsson to very much take the role as band leader. Her sincere expressions of gratitude and wonder at the size of the crowd, which is as much made up of the aforementioned older Classic Rock-reading types as it is younger fans, give plenty to admire on top of the airing of most tracks from their album which come across in a perfect, clear form. Introduced as the song "about a bad man", "Devil Man" in the latter stages ended a short lull in the set when a cover of Tony Joe White's "Elements and Things" and "Astralplane" slowed momentum before a short 'encore' of "Black Smoke" left the band to leave to a rapturous applause. Though the more lively Vintage Caravan afforded them the award of band of the night, the gentler bluesy licks of Blues Pills encapsulated the credit being afforded this young band as they ride a tidal wave of adulation that should see them comfortably survive any potential waning in the popularity of the scene they inhabit.


All photos by Teodora Dani.

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