Friday, 19 July 2013

Leeroy Stagger + The Misers - Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham Thursday 18th July 2013

One of the positive aspects of this Leeroy Stagger tour is that he’s packing in the dates and getting quite a few Midlands bookings as well as the usual round of alt-country/Americana July festivals. On the back of playing Taylor John’s in Coventry and teaming up with Dennis Ellsworth for an all Canadian evening in Leicester, another stopping off point was the busy Hare and Hounds venue in Birmingham.

Eclectic music promoters World Unlimited, who frequently include Americana artists in their shows, arranged this date for Leeroy and pulled off a masterstroke by adding Herefordshire based band The Misers to the bill. This popular four piece combo from the town of Bromyard delivered an excellent
opening set in a style that perfectly complemented the sound of Leeroy and his band. Another plus of The Misers booking is that their followers swelled the audience figures with the added bonus of Leeroy having an ideal opportunity to impress a ready-made crowd of like minded people.

The Misers is the latest musical project of Neil Ivison and over the last four years have recorded two full length albums as well as securing a supporting spot with The Proclaimers. Various explorative areas of the music media have taken an interest in them and this was clearly understood having now seen them deliver a ten song set.
The labels of roots rock, alt-country and Americana all sit comfortably on the crest of The Misers who successfully combine ramped up rock infused guitar amplification with a depth of composition associated with quality contemporary singer –songwriters. Although they were virtually on home territory with the audience, you could easily envisage the participation numbers ‘Lord Shuffle My Feet’ and ‘Give it up for Love’ getting an enthusiastic crowd going in other non-familiar settings. As well as drawing on material from their debut album AMPLIFIED LIFE STORIES and 2012’s A WEIGHT OFF THE MIND, the band were also previewing some new material and amongst these ‘All Night Long’ came over well on first listen.

The Misers are definitely a band to check out and another example of a fine group of singer song writing musicians plying their trade away from the mainstream and who match up comparatively with the touring bands active in this style of music. This leads conveniently to one such experienced practitioner of alt-country and prolific record maker Leeroy Stagger. Not an artist to rest on his laurels, Leeroy already has an eye on his next album which is beginning to take shape with some work at his UK label Clubhouse Records alongside promoting  his current release the Steve Berlin-produced TRUTH BE SOLD.

When seeing an artist twice in a week, there is a tendency to look for slight variations in the set whether song order, general banter or if a certain song raises its profile more on a second live listen. With one or two minor exceptions, the set list was very similar to the Leicester show reviewed, although one of the better songs from that gig ‘Mister’ was missed out this evening. On the plus side two other tracks from the latest album ‘ESP’ and ‘Have a Heart’ elevated their impressive status when projected from record to the stage.

Leeroy was extremely positive about the buzzing venue in general, with bands playing in other rooms, and more specifically the format of the evening, even displaying a little bit of sharp wit with some of the front row. The band joined Leeroy on top form with Evan Uschenko switching between electric lead and Mandola and John Lent and Nick Secz stoking the rhythm engine room on bass and percussion respectively. Perhaps with one eye on returning home shortly, the guys asked themselves whether the audience should be left with a dose of Canadian rock before closing with Neil Young’s ‘Cinnamon Girl’. Although on this occasion Dennis Ellsworth wasn’t present to join in on an act of Canuck indulgence.

Getting acquainted with the work of Leeroy Stagger via a couple of gigs and an album review has been a rewarding activity. While this chapter of his career closes, the next one involving further liaison with Clubhouse Records is an exciting prospect. In the meantime, another consequence of the Leeroy Stagger experience is the discovery of a band on our doorstep and it is perhaps The Misers that delivered the legacy of this Hare and Hounds show.

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