October 26, 2016
The Borderline, London
“Let’s break your hearts, how about that?”
A single false start and a caught jacket called into stark relief Austin Lucas’ otherwise flawless performance. All the more impressive considering that this wasn’t a road-weathered band; Lucas was backed by The Dreaming Spires after their support set.
Changing from a white jacket to black was the sum total of the drama in a set where the songs were the stars. The lyrics were emotive and, even with a full band, had a Southern back porch feel. Jon Bennett’s lap steel added a gentle air, alongside 50s-tinged jangly cymbals.
That’s not to say there was no passion. Quite the opposite, there was determination in every note; Lucas’ tendons strained through his tattoos as he played. When a fan volunteered to tune a guitar mid-set, Lucas’ gratitude came in the form of an impromptu song for Dan, repaying a musical kindness in kind. Lucas was generous with stage time, too. As well as jamming with The Dreaming Spires, and another sweet duet with Emily Barker, he invited Tim Easton up for a solo song.
As the fan favourites kept coming, most notably, Alone in Memphis, Lucas and the crowd inched closer together until he was leaning right off the stage. The sense of something special was palpable and the fans could not be appeased by talk of a hard deadline and a lack of short songs. “Play half a song!” came the quick reply! So that’s how Lucas ended up ending the set unplugged deep in the crowd, brothers in arms all around hollering and singing out loud.
Austin Lucas‘ album Between the Moon and the Midwest is out now.
“This is another light-hearted murder ballad”
Emily Barker has headlined Shepherd’s Bush Empire and played Wembley Arena and the Olympics opening ceremony with Frank Turner. It’s testament to her craft that she’s a consummate professional no matter the size of the venue or the familiarity of the crowd. She quietly set up on The Borderline’s small stage before suddenly stunning anyone in the crowd who hadn’t heard *that* voice before.
Barker played a short set studded with gems from her yet-to-be-released album. The new material departs from her folkier work with The Red Clay Halo, the indie rock of her previous side-project Vena Portae and the pure Americana of her current side-project, Applewood Road. Seventies influences are unmistakable, especially on the “souly, bluesy” More and the Sweet Kind of Blue, with Lukas Drinkwater on hand for the funky bass lines.
The Borderline is a rock club, after all, so old favourite Disappear made an appearance – all credit to drummer Rob Heath for mixing it up with a punchy Americana touch.
With partners-in-crime Emily Barker and Austin Lucas in the same room, the storming murder ballad Fields of June was inevitable, with Lucas taking on Frank Turner’s role – alternately singing and trying to distract Barker during her parts. Two vital jobs, both ably accomplished!
As if to reinforce why this was a co-headlining show, to a crowd perhaps more familiar with the stateside talent, Barker ended the set with an unforgettable soulful, gospel-tinged masterpiece of an a capella number.
“This song has a singing bit – do we need to train you up on it?”
Not every song from the Sixties is a classic. That’s not only a fair point, it’s also a Dreaming Spires song title. Nevertheless, they are clearly well-versed in the sounds of the Sixties. Their songs are tender and mellow with a Bay Area jangly vibe. Easy Rider was a case in point, easing in with a trembling lap steel reverb section before breaking out to a full throttle jam.
Special mention must go to All Kinds of People, not just because it’s a fantastic tune but because it’s a chance to remember that time they played it on The Marr Show, sharing a more prescient political commentary than the show’s featured guests. Sample lyric: there are all kinds of people preying on the weak.” Just saying.
Dusty In Memphis was a head-nodding, toe-tapping cracker of a closing song. Yes, they trained us up on the singing bit, and no, they didn’t need to! The Dreaming Spires dazzled within an outstanding line-up, bringing a large cadre of fans and gaining many more.
The Dreaming Spires latest album, Searching for the Supertruth is out now.
Like what you see? There are many more photos of the show over on Flickr. Follow me there, and here:
Want more photos? Try my travel, nature and street photography website, Out To The Streets!