A Thousand Horses +Howard Rose
Tuesday 19th November 2019
229 The Venue, London
229 The Venue is a strange sort of place for a gig. From the outside, it looks like you are queuing to get into a central London block of flats or office unit. Hidden around the side of this innocuous looking block is a simple unadorned entranceway into an underground music lair that is both surprising and pleasing in equal measures. Launched in 2007, 229 has two venues with capacities of 620 and 160 respectively, and has hosted the likes of Kings of Leon, Paul Weller, Florence and the Machine, Biffy Clyro and Seasick Steve amongst others. Tonight’s headliners were due to play the smaller venue but had to change to the larger due to demand. So that bodes well. Let’s see what the evening brings.
The first thing that strikes you about the venue is the stage. It’s a good size stage, well lit and well furnished, but the fact that it is over 5ft higher than the audience gives it an imposing presence and, most importantly, gives everyone in the room an excellent view of the performers. Add to this good lighting and sound and you can rate this place highly. Opening act is Howard Rose, originally from the Midlands, who stands alone in the middle of the stage, dressed in black double denim, sporting an acoustic guitar. His long hair and beard mark him out as a folk style singer but this would be to diminish his range. His short set is Folk, Country, Blues and more. He quotes his influences as Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and St Vincent. Hardly pigeonhole stuff.
The venue is only half full but the crowd are a noisy bunch, so at first it is difficult to block out their incessant chatter and hear the delicious tones from both Rose and his acoustic. He sings and plays at delightfully low volume giving his voice a gentle and thoughtful feel that deserves a silent auditorium. Not that this phases him as he soldiers on to those who become engrossed in his performance. 'Hangover Song' is a slow Country style track, but the more upbeat 'Until You’re Mine' starts to raise the volume. 'Borderline' is a working man’s Country song, whilst 'The Prospector' is soulful and sad. "I'm tired of being neglected…" he sings. Well not tonight he’s not as the crowd grows and warms to his simple guitar style and thoughtful vocals. 'Thinking About You' is Rose thoughts about trying to be a better person and is another minimalist number that attracts great applause from the crowd. 'Going Down Here' is a stronger rockier number and closer 'A List Of The Things I Ain't' is probably his strongest vocal performance of the set.
Based in Nashville, Tennessee, A Thousand Horses is Michael Hobby (vocals), Bill Satcher (guitar), Zach Brown (guitar) and Graham DeLoach (bass). Since their debut, the band has toured extensively across the world including dates supporting artists such as Jason Aldean, Darius Rucker, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gregg Allman and more. And their sound suitably reflects this with a Southern Rock edge to a Country sound. Entering to the strains of AC/DC’s 'Are You Ready' and Lizzy's 'Boys Are Back In Town', any fears of an evening of gingham shirts and hoedowns are quickly dispelled. Frontman Michael Hobby is a tall, well built fella in a large broad brimmed hat that makes him look the modern day cowboy whilst the rest of the band look more like hipsters. The usual fourpiece are supplemented tonight with a drummer and keyboardist/fiddle player so the stage is slightly crowded. With the stage being the height it is, Hobby towers over the audience, making his ability to connect with the whole audience that much easier. And the room has filled up nicely too.
Opening track 'First Time' allows Satcher to set the rocking level with his gold top Les Paul through Vox and Fender amps. Accompanying him on a beautiful gold SG is Zach Brown, a combination of sounds that many Hard Rock bands swear by. But the Country influence remains strong throughout. 'Trailer Trashed' is by contrast a more minimalist number, with Satcher switching to a Telecaster to bring that Country twang to a very Skynyrd like number. With drums to the fore, Hobby makes use of his considerable frame to add some strong vocals. To which he adds an acoustic guitar for 'Broken Heartland', a song that would sound good in a Springsteen set. Think blue collar Country Rock.
The boys have just finished their latest album 'Livin’ My Best Life', produced by Grammy Award winning producer Dave Cobb. 'Broken Heartland' is one track from the new album and 'Drinking Song' is another. They may not thank me for mentioning Nickelback but the slide ridden track definitely had that vibe. "Everybody loves a drinking song" claims Hobby so they follow it up with 'Tennessee Whisky' from their 2015 'Southernality' album. This is a slow Southern number with some extremely atmospheric fiddle playing that the crowd sang along to with gusto.
'Carry Me' sees Hobby lose the acoustic and Satcher reclaim the Les Paul as the rockometer rises once more. This is Southern Rock and Roll with keys, twin guitar harmonics and a fine solo from Satcher. Back to the new album and the title track brings us another acoustic guitar singalong that had me thinking of 'Copperhead Road'. It has that radio friendly feel and was well received. 'Sunday Morning', from their first album, had a strong key influence, reflecting the church where the song was written whilst 'Preaching To The Choir' has a slow groove intro into a chugging Country number that had the arms waving along. 'Define Me', another new track slowed things down with Satchers Tele dripping with vibrato. The slow groove sees Hobby give a powerful vocal performance whilst Satchers solo is short but sublime. Another new track that was well received.
'Burn Like Willie' brings the fun element back with a dirty slide and thumping bass. More rocky but it makes you want to dance though There's a short drum solo break allowing for a brief crowd chant before they launch into 'My Time's Comin'. Another slow chanting song, drum heavy with vocal echo and Tele solo. They close with 'Southernality', a Les Paul rocker with slide which encapsulates all Southern traits. Fiddle. Crowd singing. Twin guitars. Marvellous.
Returning for their encore, to raptous applause they launch into their 2015 hit 'Smoke'. With acoustic guitar and fiddle to start, I'm thinking 'Poisons Every Rose Has It's Thorn' and it soon morphs into a full crowd singalong power ballad. Raise those lighters and wave those hands. 'Every Time You Love Me' by contrast is soulful and moody whilst closer 'Travelin' Man is an upbeat crowd chanter with harmonica, machine gun drumming and plenty of guitar goodness. It morphs into staccato rocking and harmonica, dosey doh and a slow groove ending. What a way to finish.
A great nights entertainment at another fine music venue. A Thousand Horses were clearly right to switch their solitary UK date to the larger stage as a clearly devoted fanbase helped fill the lovely venue with atmosphere and joy. The band clearly enjoyed themselves too. A band of many influences, and much talent, I can see why they are adored. I'm feeling the love myself. Check them out.
Mother (photos courtesy of Rockrpix)