The characterful Bush Hall played host to a second night of emotional cleansing, led by Soulsavers and their most recent collaborator Mark Lanegan. Other than the ornate designs that served as an effective backdrop to their music and reminded us we were in England, this was an evening with its roots in the dusty American wastelands.
Such is the music of the Soulsavers – bleak and foreboding at times, but in a parallel universe strangely euphoric. Their immediate support adhered to that approach also. Josh T Pearson clearly had a lot to get off his chest, managing to get it past some impressive facial growth in his delivery as he did so. This was essentially one man and his guitar, but the breadth of expression Pearson secured overcame the static harmonies, his piercing voice holding attention throughout and the stamp of a bass drum effectively signposting climactic moments. Restitution he sought, and when he announced somewhat grimly, “this song is called Banished”, we felt his pain.
The Soulsavers arrived with little fanfare, happy to let the gospel and blues inflections of their music do the talking for them. Eight people took to the stage, but were largely incongruous save for Lanegan and guitarist Rich Machin, who put his instrument through its paces with impressive but largely sensitive fretwork. The two illustrious backing vocalists, both members of the London Community Gospel Choir, were unfortunately tucked in the back left corner of the stage, almost out of view.
Lanegan it was who stole the show effortlessly. Not a word to the audience from him, a cursory but heartfelt wave speaking volumes later on. The emotions ran freely, with Ask The Dust and Paper Money making an early impression before the sublime Kingdoms Of Rain, an aside to the audience atop soft piano ripples from the back.
Rarely did the drums dominate, and for the live performance there was less evidence of programmed atmospherics save for Jesus Of Nothing, where a subterranean bass shook the foundations. Lanegan’s voice continues to sound implausibly gruff given his face, but the purity of his delivery could be frequently admired.
This would have been a smoke-filled venue in June, especially given the music, but a clear and unobstructed view was a feature throughout in this small capacity venue, the intimacy difficult to resist.
“Why am I so blind with my eyes wide open?” sang Lanegan quizzically in the encore Revival, a subtle elaboration on the harmonies of Knocking On Heaven’s Door. His eyes stayed resolutely shut, a snapshot of the prevailing mood against strife that ran through this gig. And when the gospel vocalists came to the fore with Neil Young‘s Through My Sails to close, we were in post confessional mode, suitably cleansed.