Black Country, New RoadHarvest Sun @ Future Yard 19/6/21
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In a fallow year for live music, the momentum BLACK COUNTRY, NEW ROAD built with their early singles and acclaimed live shows has been under threat of grinding to a halt. The chorus of plaudits risked echoing in an anti-bac wiped vacuum through no fault of the Cambridgeshire septet. This afternoon, however, we do not need to dwell on this scenario. The band have returned to the same soil on which they played when first riding that initial wave of hype. Their set at 2019’s Future Yard festival, on the grounds of Birkenhead Priory, was to an audience largely unintroduced to their klezmer-infused jazz and spoken word stylings. At this matinée performance, the sold-out congregation greets the tracks from this year’s debut album For the first time with knowing excitement and there’s a sense that we’re lucky to be in such intimate confines with this year’s bona fide buzz band.
Clearly not a unit to rest on their laurels, the band make an announcement ahead of the performance via drummer Charlie Wayne. There’ll be new material tonight, so please don’t video, “it could be disco, we don’t know what it’ll be.” The first track is not disco but it’s unfamiliar. A recent interview with the band alluding to their new sound being akin to Arcade Fire is not actually far off the mark. There’s an epic folk feel to the track which swaps the frantic chaos of the album for mandolin and swelling emotion.
Athens, France reassures us that the songs that gave cause for celebration in the darkness of lockdown 2.0 will get a run-out. The band don’t really deal with exuberance, but they don’t seem bored of playing the hits. Clearly proficient musicians (much has been made of three of their number being classically trained), it’s perhaps by design that there are so many directions to go within the song structures that tracks like Sunglasses and Track X will always feel fresh to player and consumer alike.
Another newbie with a start-stop signature and wacky drum solo causes smirks to develop into full-on LOLs among the band just as things threaten to get too serious. The track offers something different and hints at the experimentation Wayne pointed to in his pre-set announcement.
Weeks after For the first time garnered five-star ratings and heralded a new unique talent, the band performed a streamed gig consisting of zero tracks from the debut and a cover of MGMT’s Time To Pretend. This matinée performance was followed by an evening gig which featured the band producing a rendition of Abba’s Mamma Mia. Lots of people got bored in lockdown, other people challenged themselves to explore their boundaries and have fun under the limitations. The seven people on stage this afternoon presumably fit the latter category and that behaviour is going to extend way beyond sating critics and socially distanced gigs.