Saturday, 23 March 2019

GIG REVIEW: Orphan Colours - St. George's Hall, Bewdley. Friday 22nd March 2019

Orphan Colours went down a treat when they played an hour-long set at Beardy Folk Festival on the Shropshire/Worcestershire border last June. Upon their return to the area, and a subsequent gig in nearby Bewdley, it was déjà vu in terms of response and grasping the opportunity to show why they are such a highly rated outfit. This London-based band took the honour of being the latest Americana-style act to headline the monthly Severn Sessions evening at St. George’s Hall and demonstrated that you need not always look overseas for quality acts of this ilk. Once again, a packed hall greeted the guests, who took their place on the evening’s roster among a host of fledgling young local musicians to provide a comprehensive package of entertainment.

It was a modified Orphan Colours line up for this show. Streamlined to a four-piece act minus the sax, the band were also without pivotal members Fred Abbott and Dave Burn, but drafted in a rather useful lead guitarist introduced as Tim. The remaining core trio of lead vocalist Steve Llewellyn (acoustic and electric guitar), bassist Graham Knight and familiar drummer Steve Brookes (to any fans of Danny and the Champions of the World) ensured the show went on and a few more folks drifted away as Orphan Colours fans. A growing number now enhanced by the release and success of a debut award-nominated album ALL ON RED.

Perhaps edged in this direction by the line-up, their 70-minute set split into two halves with Steve and Graham choosing to open up as a duo to share half a dozen songs in acoustic mode. This segment allowed the pair to road test a quartet of new songs lined up for the next album, likely recorded later this year. Obviously, the finished format of these songs may change when filtered through the production process, but the raw prototype showed the ingredients available for another stellar release. The pick of the new ones was ‘Radio Heart’, which has the hallmark of single material, with its instantly memorable chorus hook.

The momentum notably changed when Steve and Tim accepted the invitation to enter the stage and the Orphan Colours that added significant clout to the UK Americana scene began to let rip. Established favourites such as ‘Start of Something’, ‘High Hopes’ and ‘Goodnight California’ soon ignited the proceedings, with the latter rightfully settled into the climactic pre-encore slot. However, these three giants had to give way to ‘Sun is Rising’ as the evening’s stand-out moment, and a case of an album track taking on a new lease of life in the live arena.

The band’s roots are never far from the surface. Midway through the set, they covered the ahab song ‘Uptight’, relevant in that Steve, Dave and Graham were all members of this acclaimed band that flourished under the alt-country tag before the Americana label exploded. The encore number was the band’s usual homage to Tom Petty, with ‘Won’t Let You Down’ having the double whammy of getting folks to their feet and sending everyone home happy.

In a slight switch to the evening’s usual format, both opening acts came from the local youth pool. The main support Hannah Law has graduated through the ranks and now commands a set as an accomplished singer-songwriter, though still a short while before she exits her teenage years. A younger trio of Rosie, Jack and Josh exchanged roles and songs in the first slot showing a broad base of influences as they set out on the music journey.

The journey of Orphan Colours continues to gather pace. They perfectly execute an uncomplicated style of seminal rock music that leans heavily in a folk and country direction. A thunderous beat, archetype harmonies and an ear to create a memorable tune all play a part as this experienced group of musicians seek to move their project forward. Evenings like this suggest the band is precisely on track.