Laurence Jones + MeMe Detroit
Tuesday 23rd January 2018
The Borderline, London
Laurence Jones certainly earned the label of “the future of the Blues” at London's Borderline last Tuesday night. The 25 year old prodigy's new album 'The Truth' is due to be released on Friday 9th March and he’s toured with Buddy Guy, Walter Trout, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, the legendary Johnny Winter and many more. Over the past five years, Laurence has come into his own, and with his new album, he has now developing his own creative skin by writing and performing songs that are distinctive to his unique sound and identity plus he was recently hailed by Planet Rock Radio as one to watch. The last time we saw Laurence was as a three-piece at London's 100 Club in June 2014 - our gig review that night predicting that this boy was going places: "Sandwiched in between Stark and Grainne Duffy was Laurence Jones - it was worth a tenner just to see Laurence's set."
On the night Laurence was supported by excellent three piece Brummie Indie/Grunge outfit MeMe Detroit. We bumped into the softly spoken vocalist, guitarist and actress MeMe before the gig and by the time she had picked up her guitar and got up on stage, she had transformed into a Indie banshee with matching 'Ashes To Ashes' red face paint to boot. "Hi London - how are you doing" MeMe enquired before the band opened with 'Adelaide' with its sultry guitar driven hooks, although the contrasting less frenetic 'A Point Of You' still saw MeMe grabbing the stage with both hands. A head turning vocal and guitar riff on 'Emily' was complemented by the swagger of 'Stand Up You're Living' although one's attention could not fail to be drawn to the intensity and resultant facial expression of flame haired drummer Barney Such, particularly on their next track 'With You'. Technical gremlins for long haired bass guitarist Ross Adams gave MeMe the opportunity to divulge that Ross was feeling "like a bag of shit" and then asked those assembled "whose been in love?" before they launched into 'Roses' - for mine the stand out from the set - with its progressive mystical sound. Their final song 'Churchside Inn' was a microcosm of their set - full of energy with MeMe saying her goodbyes by jumping into the audience with her guitar in hand. Given the motor city's heritage - and although different musical genres - MeMe Detroit did the name proud tonight driving an entertaining live slice of Alt Rock down the M6.
Laurence Jones' band, consisting of ex-King King keyboard player Bennett Holland plus a previous ten year musical engine room partnership of Phil Wilson on drums and Greg Smith on bass, then made their way on to the Borderline stage in advance of Jones, before he joined them for the first two tracks off of the new album, one of the stand-outs 'What Would You Do' - the additional dimension of Bennett's keys immediately adding depth with Laurence throwing in his first guitar solo on the night for good measure before Holland's piano intro on 'Don't You Let Me Go'. "It's great to be back from Holland" said Jones, and despite his set list being slightly tweaked on the band's return from said tour of Switzerland and The Netherlands, Wilson and Smith's opener on Laurence's favourite track from the album - 'Gone Away' - with its palpable Stevie Ray Vaughan/Jimi Hendrix influence, saw Jones stepping back and connecting with his audience on this ballad thanks to a tremendous rockin' chord guitar solo. Two more tracks from The Truth not only completed an opening quintet from the new release but also demonstrated the strength of the spine of the new material. The powerful sounding 'Never Good Enough' with its spot on backing vocals, saw Jones and Holland not being outdone by Phil Wilson's driving drum solo, which was followed by their new single 'Give Me Your Time', Wilson opening proceedings on a track, yet another stand-out from the album, that again benefited from Holland's keys.
It was then time for Laurence to roll out some of his own favourites and fan favourites. The appropriately named title track 'Take Me High' from his 2016 album, with its trippy hammond keys intro and its cajun feel was followed by another title track 'Thunder In The Sky' from his 2012 album. On the latter, Holland's hammond intro was complemented by Jones' political observation on everyone currently feeling the Blues. "So I feel like playing the Blues" as he proceeded to blow away those Blues with one of the first numbers he ever wrote, an eleven minute monster which at one stage saw Laurence crouching on the stage, followed by his Hendrix staple, 'All Along The Watchtower', Wilson's intro leading into another unbelievable execution of a classic that I will never get tired of seeing. No prizes for guessing the response to Jones' "Are you having good time?" as we returned to another stand-out from 'The Truth' 'Can't Go On Without You' which again saw Holland's keys sparring with another Jones solo before he played the metal riff from the title track - a song, that Laurence told me in a really enjoyable interview beforehand, reflects inward personal sacrifices - such as being a musician - "Do you ever wonder what it would be like to have a different life?"
Another from 'Take Me High' - 'Live It Up' - did exactly what it said on the tin - Wilson again start proceedings before Jones easily prompted the Borderline faithful to "Get your hands in the air" which they duly did - cue mass clapping which even got Phil off of his seat. The band then played two final songs from The Truth, which demonstrated Jones' concept of crossover Blues which we spoke about in the aforementioned interview. Both 'Keeping Me Up At Night' plus another one of Jones' favourites, the ballad 'Take Me', with their distinct piano hybrid of Pop/Blues, wouldn't seem out of place - dare I say it - on an Ed Sheeran album. However, Laurence's attempt to take the Blues to the masses with driving guitar solos can only be applauded and both numbers were naturally received ecstatically. A big guitar intro heralded 'Foolin' Me' from his 2014 album 'Temptation' before Jones thanked everyone before his final track of the set and kindly dedicated 'What's It Gonna Be', the title track from his 2015 album, to a father of two in the audience who had recently lost his wife. It was a lovely touch despite the fact that Laurence had to "Schhh" someone in the audience during the intro. Have some people not got any respect? Not only does Jones have a great voice, but Holland also nailed his undoubted vocal quality to the mast on his opening piano intro to 'Take Me High's' 'I Will', before Jones sent his fans home happy with a one for the road guitar solo on 'Thinking About Tomorrow' - another from 'Take Me High'.
"That guy just keeps getting better and better!" was just one of the many compliments passed Laurence's way, as well as to his band who were awesome. A setlist comprising, in the majority, of new tracks from his yet to be released album was a bold move - but his set's balance of new stuff plus his own favourites and fan favourites hit the right chord as the 25 year old pulled it off big time. His fans, obviously now salivatating at the thought of the new release in over a month's time, can also look forward to his nationwide tour in May plus an appearance at Holland's International Blues Festival in June. Do not miss him.
AJ (Photos courtesy of Laurence Harvey)