Tuesday, 12 March 2019

GIG REVIEW: Larkin Poe - Glee Club, Birmingham. Monday 11th March 2019

Larkin Poe are a band seemingly existentially embedded into their blues- rock phase. This signifies a major shift since the Lovell sisters first came to prominence overseas and the subsequent early years of the Larkin Poe incarnation. The last time they toured significantly away from their US base the evolution was underway, with the KIN album turning the dial up in terms of sound. Since then, heady times have swept along Rebecca and Megan leading to the release of two heavily blues biased records and plenty of vivid association with many major names of the electrified guitar world. However, you can primarily appear online to fans overseas for only a limited period and retain interest, therefore the time is right for Larkin Poe to once again reach out and expand the live performances.

The Glee Club in Birmingham played host to the touring four-piece set up on the second date of a UK tour; a trip that will also take in continental Europe alongside plans to visit Australia and the Far East. The stature of Larkin Poe has grown to such an extent that 3-400 capacity venues are close to selling out. In turn, the sibling led outfit ensured that those choosing them for their live music fix had the treat of a scintillating display of blues infused roots rock ‘n’ roll.

Those already au fait with Larkin Poe will identify Rebecca as the guitar playing exuberant mouthpiece and Megan as the unassuming queen of the slide guitar. These roles were at the forefront of this evening’s show as the band stormed through a hundred minute set incorporating strong originals, classic covers and more than the occasional nod to the pioneers of blues. Most notably, those who helped take it into the mainstream.

It was an evening of serial namechecking, and blues aficionados are not going to disagree with referrals to Robert Johnson, Son House, Skip James, Lead Belly and Stevie Ray Vaughan. The latter was the subject of the show’s most pleasantly surprising moment when Rebecca introduced a brand new song in honour of the great man titled ‘Laurel Land’, in fact one played first time to a live audience and sounding rather good.

Extraordinary sibling chemistry was awash all evening through vocal harmonies, spine tingling co-ordinated solos and sincere chat. There was even a slight nod to their folk and bluegrass past when Rebecca swapped her guitar for a long-loved banjo to play a couple of tunes against a semi-rock background.

Vocally the band, especially Rebecca, seemed to have ascended to another level. Old classics like ‘Black Betty’, ‘Preachin’ Blues’, ‘John the Revelator’ and ‘Come on in My Kitchen’ were belted out with a resounding vigour. If you wanted any proof that these are proud Georgia girls putting their stamp on contemporary southern rock then look no further than ‘Blue Ridge Mountains’, one of the tracks shared from their recent VENOM AND FAITH album.

The show was not all entirely about the current phase of Larkin Poe as the band dealt the popular older track ‘Mad as a Hatter’ in response to the important theme of recognised mental health issues, one close to them as a family. This was probably the one serious moment on the evening as the tone generally circulated in celebratory proportions on the back of finally playing again in front of fans in the UK, a country that has provided long-term support.

Opening the show this evening was a duo from Bristol called Foreign Affairs, who delivered a thirty-minute set that went down well with a sizable portion of the audience. They joined this tour straight from appearing at the Country-to-Country Festival in London. Opportunities will also present to widen their appeal when continuing to open for Larkin Poe on dates both at home and in Europe.

At the triumphant end, it was clear that Larkin Poe had duly enthralled a roomful of fans, likely old and new, ensuring that spending a Monday evening supporting live music is still kind of a rock ‘n’ roll thing to do. Rebecca and Megan Lovell proudly wear the badge of carrying the torch for American roots music and few would disagree that they carry it off in fine style. It was good to have them back touring the UK and while the future of this ever-evolving band is difficult to predict, the present is serving them well.