Review by Peter Keevil. Pics by Mark Lloyd
These are interesting times for Midlands hard rock band, Liberty Lies. They set up this gig to celebrate the launch of their debut album, Reflections (see Jason’s review here) but just prior to this launch guitarist, Matt Nickless, decided to call it a day and relocate to the USA. Not the best timing I’m sure you’ll agree. However, undeterred they invite three up-and-coming Midlands acts to join them on stage to create a decent line-up of local talent. All aspiring to bigger things.
Unfortunately, due to the early start I failed to catch Raven Vandelle but I have seen them play recently and did catch up with the Crutchley bros post-show who informed me that they are hoping to release a new EP in May. So we look forward to hearing that and I’m sure we will have a catch-up interview with the boys nearer the launch.
My colleague Paul H Birch has said good things about Diamond Lil’s debut EP (read his review here), so I looked forward to seeing them live. There’s definitely some potential there; they just need to hone their stage-craft a little to take it to the next level. I want to see support bands play a gig like it was their last and leave an indelible impression on an audience which is not their own. This night frontman, Ellis Wilde was a little too introspective for my liking. I also don’t recall guitarist Harry Colley looking at the audience, once. As a punter I want to like you, there’s nothing better than seeing a support band blow you away. I say this with love but set up a video camera, film a gig straight off and watch it back. Even if it’s the best gig of your lives, enjoy that moment then set it aside and play it back with a view to improve it by another 10% next time.
Special guests, The Whiskey Syndicate are more than comfortable on stage. They haven’t played a gig since well before Xmas due to singer, Ant Wright, becoming a Dad, so you could see them blowing away a few cobwebs and loving it. They peddle, low slung, out and out good time rock n roll and it’s hard not to like them. Sure they’re not going to change the world but who needs it changed when you can forget about it for 40 mins with a stick or two of Black Country Rock. They too released a solid debut album last year (read the review here) but didn’t appear to get out on the road and push it like it deserved. Hopefully they can get organised and force their way into the public’s attention in 2013.
This night belonged to Liberty Lies. The album had been sealed away in a vault until recently and despite the set-back of losing Matt, the rest of LL were gagging for the public to hear their tunes. The crowd filled out substantially and it wasn’t all Mums, Dads and girlfriends there to wish them well.
New boy guitarist, Liam ‘Billy’ Billings, was thrown into the deep end and despite obvious nerves, coped remarkably well and visibly relaxed as the set progressed. This had a knock on effect on bassist, Adam ‘Wolfman’ Howell who is usually a wall flower on stage, never daring to look up from behind his razor-cut fringe. But in recognition that he had to help his new brother through first night nerves, he himself opened up and was more prominent stage front. And all the better for it.
However the focal point of the stage was to the left, occupied by guitarist, Josh Pritchett and frontman and possessor of all gifts natural, singer Shaun Richards. And, honestly if you weren’t checking in on Billy occasionally to see how he was doing, then your eyes needn’t have strayed very far all night; as all the entertainment was stage right.
Shaun Richards is the LETHAL weapon. His voice has Queen bees everywhere wondering why they can’t produce honey the flavour and sweetness of this boy’s. I have never heard him sing a flat or sharp note. Auto-tune – fuck that! On stage he is affable, charming, at ease with the crowd, whether it’s his own, as on this night, or just as equally Shinedown’s as on their recent tour across Europe.
He looks like a classic rock singer – a modernised version of Classic Rock a la, Shinedown, Alterbridge, Black Stone Cherry et al.
Beside him, Josh is a whirlwind of energy; throwing shapes, mouth agape, living and breathing every note.
And here’s the rub with Liberty Lies at this juncture. The album is awesome. Plain and simple. They have always possessed a song-writing capability well beyond their years and experience. Not many Midlands bands have picked up the support tours these guys have over recent times and all justly deserved.
But what I saw this night was a band struggling with their visual identity. If looking with a critical eye (as is my want) it left me a tad confused. For sure, you can see where their focus has been these last few months. The recording and production of their debut album. The recruitment of a new guitarist. The new merch. The album artwork. It’s all coming together. No question.
But what that has meant is that they may be missing a beat on the visual identity front. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to see them each wearing their own colour – JLS style. But no one be fooled it IS an important part of being a ‘band’. It’s an ingredient many groups fall short on and its one LL need to turn to next. Visually they look like they are in two separate bands. If they bring the attention to detail in this area as they obviously have in others, then I can only see big things for these Black Country boys in the years to come.
The album, Reflections, is out now across all half-decent outlets.
View more of Mark’s shots below…