Thursday, 21 February 2019

GIG REVIEW: The Artisanals - O2 Academy, Islington, London. Tuesday 19th February 2019

Highly recommended and having to start somewhere were two key features attached to catching The Artisanals on what was the last show of their first run of UK dates. The recommendation came from respected Nottingham-based promotion Cosmic American, who booked them for an East Midlands show, and are a team that really know their music when it comes to US acts of a certain persuasion. Having to start somewhere relates to a London date held in an empty generic soulless branded room, this one in a North London shopping centre! Not my usual gig manor, but when in a particular area do not let the surroundings blind a band destined to be one of the very best of their ilk, and better known when the word gets around.

The offer of a two-for-one ticket from the national promotion for pre-booking in January did not float the boat of many folks in Islington, but the loss was on those not investing the princely sum of £4.50 for a band well worth a lot more. The handful that did dig deep (or importantly investing their time when so much else is on offer) had the treat of a first class performance from a five-piece band heading towards recognised status.

Draw a line from the influential days of Petty and Young, through the alt-country pioneers of the 80s to contemporary peers such as Dylan LeBlanc, Sons of Bill, Dawes, 400 Unit and Cordovas and you start to sketch what The Artisanals are all about. Led by the enigmatic pairing of lead man Johnny Delaware and fellow guitarist Clay Houle, and frequently driven from additional keys, bass and drums, they instinctively knew when to switch tempo.

This was high-octane rock of the Americana variety purveying images of open roads, endless tours and leading the rock ‘n’ roll charge amidst a time when challenges leave a debris of casualties. Recently formed out of South Carolina, though originally from many points across a vast land, momentum is building on the back of an excellent debut album and a live show that runs to a defining beat.

This O2 Academy 2 set was only an hour long but enough time to get a live flavour of what the band can do and what they are planning. The follow up to last year’s self-titled album is in the pipeline with a couple of new numbers shared and plans are afoot for a UK return in the Autumn where greater turnouts than this await with better planning and more directed promotion.

Country Roads Town’ depicting Delaware’s South Dakota homeland looked set to be the most notable song on the evening, until the quintet unleashed an unyielding finale of ‘Angel 42’, a seriously good song on record given an extra dimension on stage. Sadly, the few present had missed the opportunity to pick up a physical copy of the album that had sold out on the more populous dates. Still it is available on the streaming sites and well worth tapping into until they arrive on our shores again.

Occasionally you have to divorce the surroundings from the stage and just focus on what is felt from the music. The Artisanals made this investment of time worthwhile alongside a declaration that a band rocking in the right direction is ready to fight for a little corner of the UK scene that shares their ideals.