Lethbridge Owen, Katy Hurt,
The Great Flud,
Friday 26th April
Under The Bridge, London
It was under the bridge that the ugly fearsome troll lived who threatened to eat the three billy goats gruff. So I guess I was the obvious candidate to make the trip to the fantastic little venue, under the iconic Stamford Bridge football stadium. And I'm ready to gobble up anything that I see. It's been a long week since the Easter break so what better way to spend a Friday evening than enjoying some quality live music.
The first of our three musical Capra for the evening are The Great Flud, a 5-piece Alt Rock band from London. Clearly influenced by bands like The Smiths and The Cure, the young band members all look like they were born a long time after the 80's style music that clearly enthuses them. Singer Marie Choquet, sporting red Doctor Martins, trousers and colour coordinated hair provides the bubbly fun focus whilst flanked by guitarists Adam Mason and Aiden Scott, sporting Fender Stratocasters into Fender amps. Rhythm is ably provided by bassist Stephen Field and drummer Louis Cowling. The short set is an entertaining hark back to an era of Brit Pop, although often with modern influences such as Rap and Funk, giving us 45 minutes of happy shoe gazing. The jangly guitars and dance beat on tracks like ‘Drive’ and ‘Don't Ask Why’ are indicators of great things to come. It's good to see upcoming talent such as The Great Flud, and to see them being given stage time at such an excellent venue. As the kids of the three acts, I will let these pass without devouring them further and let them go onto hopefully great things.
Second to take the stage is Katy Hurt who I was lucky enough to see earlier this year supporting Ariel Posen. This time she's back at the Bridge, again with guitarist Gab Zsapka, plus bass and drums. This gives her a larger sound than the two piece set I last saw. Zsapka is an excellent guitarist whose electric Les Paul nicely compliments the acoustic guitar of Hurt. Katy, wearing a tasselled dress, denim waistcoat and cowboy boots looks every part the country singer from Nashville, despite her London birth, and has the sort of voice that would grace any Tennessee country scene. Or maybe Taylor Swift concert. Although her short set is decidedly Country, it has a rocking edge, especially with Zsapka's chops, with tracks like 'Sleeping Next To You' and 'See Ya Later', the obligatory Country song about a boy. Gaz gets to show off his slide skills on 'Fire' before the set closes with the title track from Katy's recent EP, 'Unfinished Business', which made it to #2 in the Country charts. As the mellow sounds of the closing track drift away I'm reminded that G.O.A.T. is also an acronym for greatest of all time. Now I'm not sure Katy is there yet but she's well on her way. Watch this space.
Last across the bridge is duet Lethbridge Owen. I say duet although across the set the stage hosts up to eight other musicians at any one time. Kelly Louise Lethbridge is a UK based singer songwriter who has teamed up with guitar impresario Jimmy Owen to form a writing and performing team reminiscent of West coast American Pop Rock. With distinct sounds of Fleetwood Mac about them, the Stevie Knicks/Lindsey Buckingham sound has been honed over a ten year partnership that has only just resulted in their first album - 'Mind Over Matter'. The rest of the time has been spent perfecting their considerable stage skills. Lethbridge sports a classy black and gold hussar style shell jacket with a matching broad rimmed hat giving her a sparkle that matches her voice. Owen, in contrast, is in simple jeans and shirt although he does sport a rather sexy looking Fender Stratocaster. That's what I call accessorising.
The opening track, 'Re-Inspire' sees 7 of the 8 musicians take to the stage with Lethbridge/Owen being accompanied with bass, drums, rhythm guitar and two backing singers. It is the duet's latest single which introduces us to Lethbridge's powerful vocals and Owens considerable guitar skills. Owen is a lover of tone exemplified by his collection of vintage gear like his Plexi amp and boutique pedals. It's very Fleetwood Mac too which is never a bad thing. By contrast, 'The Great Healer' has a more Ska like beat with doomy lyrics albeit in an upbeat style. The track makes heavy use of Owen's Echoplex delay pedal which gives the song an ambient feel. 'Frozen Love' sees the introduction of keyboards which beautifully complements the dual vocal harmonies and shimmering guitar. The song also contains an excellent solo from Owen, utilising the dusty end of the neck, which lasts almost 10 minutes. Does that count as Prog? Opening track of the new album is 'All We Need Is Hope' and is an upbeat, almost Pop song. The backing singers give it a big radio friendly sound and again, the harmony between Lethbridge and Owens is extremely strong. 'Leaving Home' on the other hand is a soulful almost Country song with the addition of an acoustic rhythm guitar. Owen still gets a strong guitar solo in there though.
The set now takes a pleasant turn when the stage clears for a small acoustic set. Jimmy stands alone for an unaccompanied acoustic version of 'From Now On' which enables Owen to showcase all his deftness of touch and tone on his acoustic guitar. It's an enthralling instrumental. Enter Kelly and we are treated to some delightful harmonies on 'April Come She Will' accompanied again with Jimmy's acoustic guitar. And on 'If Only' Kelly takes the lead vocals whilst Jimmy provides backing vocals for the closing acoustic number. Although stripped back, the acoustic songs have a rawness that is pleasing, as well as really allowing the vocal and playing skills of Lethbridge Owen to shine.
With the return of the band, and a much more crowded stage, we return to the full on sound of 'Taking Over Me', with Jimmy using his Strat and Echo pedal to give an almost U2 'Streets Have No Name' vibe. It's also home to another Owen solo whilst Kelly's Stevie Nicks vocals manage to elevate above the sound of the full band. As has the Bluesy 'Back To The Blue'. This has Jimmy playing some fast Blues, with copious quantities of wah pedal but with a funky edge to it. 'Fight For You' is more Pop, think Tom Petty, whilst 'World's Burned Over' is a more sombre/serious experience with Owen's solo sounding like Mark Knopfler. As if the stage wasn't crowded enough, Katy and Gaz are invited up on stage to join in on 'Two Steps Forward'. This is a really enjoyable, fast paced romp of a song. The feel good song gives us both a Gaz solo and Jimmy solo which starkly contrasts the two styles of play. I like them both. For me, it was the best track of the set.
'Love Me Like A Man' sees the stage reduced to four as Lethbridge Owen launch into a traditional Blues number with just bass and drums. It's a chance for Lethbridge to launch into her strong vocal range above a slow Blues groove whilst Jimmy noodles the Blues scale underneath. And closing track 'Axis Bold As Love' allows Owen to show off his full Hendrix, including behind head guitar playing, whilst the band builds to a final crescendo, topped by Kelly's immaculate vocals and crowd interaction. Finishing with a flourish I would say.
It has been a fine night of music with a positive happy vibe. Even a miserable old troll like me leaves with a smile on his face. In the fairy tale. the troll falls into the stream and is carried away by the current. From then on the bridge is safe, and all three goats are able to go to the rich fields around the Summer farm in the hills, and they all live happily ever after. Here's hoping that our three acts get to do the same. Rather than getting washed away, we contemplate washing down a few beers. There's the trip home to think about and stormy weather outside to face. But no rush. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.
Mother (pictures courtesy of John Bull)