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Jack J Hutchinson Band

Thursday 8th February 2024

O2 Academy Islington, London

Two years almost to the day since Jack officially launched his ‘The Hammer Falls’ album at Islington Academy, he returned to the same venue to repeat the trick for his latest release ‘Battles’. Given that he apparently personally underwrote the cost of the booking the venue, Jack must have been mightily pleased and just a little relieved that the show was so well attended!

In my review two years ago I expressed a hope that the heavier sound that Jack had favoured on ‘The Hammer Falls’ would not leave behind those fans who had followed his music since it was performed in much smaller rooms and with a clearer Blues influence. On the evidence of this show I think those worries can be put to bed.

In my album review I have touched on some of the reasons why ‘Battles’ may have a different feel to it, one of those being the use of a new rhythm section. Interestingly, neither bassist Charlie Rachael Kay nor drummer Phil Wilson played on the album, but they did the new music full justice, even though they were playing much of the setlist in front of an audience for the first time. Their predecessors Laz and Felipe were much loved by Jack’s fans, but I’ll stick my neck out and say that Charlie and Phil could prove to be his best rhythm team yet.

The relief on all three band members’ faces at the end of ‘Constellations’, the opening song of both the album and the gig, was evident, but so was their delight at its reception by the audience. Buoyed by this, the band launched into the radio friendly ‘Days Are Gone’, followed by ‘Running On Empty’ and ‘Don’t Let The Fuckers Get You Down’, which may both refer to the harder side of the music business and life on the road.

The rhythm section sounded particularly good on ‘Love Is The Law’, goading Jack into a pair of fine solos, before we were taken on a trip down the ‘Road To Hell’ (no relation to the Chris Rea song!). Taking a short break from the new album (only ‘Bullets’ and ‘Overdrive’ were not in the night’s setlist), Jack delved back into the ‘Paint No Fiction’ (2017; where did all that time go?) album for a pair of fan favourites in ‘Hip Slickin’ and ‘Written In Stone’, the latter of which featured another fine guitar solo.

‘Stay With Me’, a slower Blues, was introduced as a ballad, before the band stepped on the gas again for the closing two numbers: the title track from ‘The Hammer Falls’ (2022), then, as an encore, ‘Rip It Up’ from the new album.

The set only ran to about 65 minutes, but less can sometimes be more and I’m pretty sure that everyone present would have been happy to sign up for this band’s next London show, whenever that may be. In the meantime I suggest that you grab yourself a copy of ‘Battles’!

Gary Smith

Setlist:

Constellations*; Days Are Gone*; Running On Empty*; Don’t Let The Fuckers Get You Down*; Love Is The Law*; Road To Hell*; Hip Slickin’; Written In Stone; Stay With Me*; The Hammer Falls; Rip It Up*.

(*New songs from the “Battles” album, which was officially launched at this gig)

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