Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys: The Philharmonic Music Room, Liverpool – live review

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SAM KELLY & THE LOST BOYS

THE PHILHARMONIC MUSIC ROOM, LIVERPOOL

8 March 2018

Folk Award nominees give a lesson on how to deliver contemporary and vibrant folk music with less reliance on the usual topics of death and betrayal and more of an emphasis on inspiration and vitality. And how to get friendly with goats….

So, one of the bands up for Best Group 2018 gets a chance to show why, on what some would call a gruelling tour; 12 consecutive dates with a snow bound country to deal with at the start, but these are not just Lost Boys but brave men. If there’s an audience they’ll push the van and play; fortunately there was nothing to prevent a pretty full Philharmonic Music Room on the first stop on a run of three North West dates.

In the long run, alongside Elephant Sessions, Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band, the Lost Boys might fall foul of home advantage in Belfast on 4 April, to Lankum in what may be a politically safe vote from those who form the awards panel, but that’s not going to stop them continuing to blaze their trail. Whatever, on the strength of their reputation as a pulsating live act and on the evidence of the last album Pretty Peggy, with its 9/10 Louder review here, Sam and his gang are still going places.

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They’re accompanied by Honey & The Bear, a support band in every sense from not only providing the warm up act but driving and tech-ing too  Earning their keep as well as spreading their own word without too much fuss, Jon Hart and Lucy Sampson’s low key and understated presence, saw them switch  between double bass, guitars and setting up loops to fill out a sound to deliver a quality set that raised the bar with the sprightly Wristburner, aptly named, as the concession to rocking out on the last number of the set. Bonus support came from a brief set from local lads Isaac and Louis Grover   who Sam and Jamie had encountered in the past and made a note to keep in touch. Alarmingly young and talented, even by Lost Boys standards and with an interesting upbringing that’s clearly exposed them to acoustic blues and the likes of Howling Wolf and Johnny Cash, they also do their own material that flits from Oasis styled Britpop to the sort of Jimmy Page /  White Summer instrumental guitar doodling on the dobro that would often merge into the mighty Kashmir.

They’re accompanied by Honey & The Bear, a support band in every sense from not only providing the warm up act but driving and tech-ing too  Earning their keep as well as spreading their own word without too much fuss, Jon Hart and Lucy Sampson’s low key and understated presence, saw them switch  between double bass, guitars and setting up loops to fill out a sound to deliver a quality set that raised the bar with the sprightly Wristburner, aptly named, as the concession to rocking out on the last number of the set. Bonus support came from a brief set from local lads Isaac and Louis Grover   who Sam and Jamie had encountered in the past and made a note to keep in touch. Alarmingly young and talented, even by Lost Boys standards and with an interesting upbringing that’s clearly exposed them to acoustic blues and the likes of Howling Wolf and Johnny Cash, they also do their own material that flits from Oasis styled Britpop to the sort of Jimmy Page /  Black Mountainside instrumental guitar doodling on the dobro that would often merge into the mighty Kashmir.

Often a band who like to make an initial impact, Hickathrift, the tale of the Norfolk giant killer provided a low key opener as the band finish checking their levels, remain onstage, dim the lights and kick into the song with minimal fuss. An arresting line of six across the front of the stage, stepping forward to provide choral vocals and provide unity in numbers, they present  a imposing sight, giant killers themselves, with Evan Carson on his drum riser behind. Each has their place and each plays their part. At stage right, while his shoulder partner Jamie Francis remains resolutely picking banjo lines in accompaniment and then suddenly switching to what rock guitarists would call searing leads, Toby Shaer flits between fiddle, flutes, harmonium and bouzouki with the sort of confident ease that  flows through the veins of annoyingly talented multi-instrumentalists.

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Stage left on the Kelly flank is first lieutenant Ciaran Algar whose fiddle alongside the banjo provides much of the musical decoration, the hollandaise dressing, as well as forming part of the double act whose banter includes the (in)famous goat story – one of those where you had to be there, although thankfully not literally. And while Archie Churchill-Moss is still in recovery from the blasting his hair took from the leaf blower on the set of False Lights’ William Glenn video, he and Graham Coe substitute bassist Tom, remain respectfully distanced from the general folly.

Musically, Gwrello Glaw proved a late set pleasant surprise. Resurrected from the Kelly archives or at least the 2016 Picking up The Pieces album from Tanya Brittain’s The Changing Room, it’s one of those tenderly and sensitively played numbers which sits at the far end of the spectrum that travels via  the gentle  If I Were A Blackbird to a friendly Angeline The Baker, through the Little Sadie murder ballad and onto a final of  The Close Shave that ends the set with an explosive  instrumental tune frenzy.  One that also hits a peak with their now familiar cover of Sultans Of Swing, although their dip into the Dylan catalogue with Crash On The Levee wouldn’t go amiss as an alternative as a startling set opener, doing a sterling job in that place previously.  And for anyone who enjoys seeing a young band really up the ante and rip through some tunes (and almost get some of the cabaret club styled seated crowd on their feet),  Sam Kelly goads his Lost Boys into another injection of adrenaline with foot tapping-pant swinging-foot to the floor-finale parts of Greenland Whale and Jolly Waggoners that both do the trick. Best Group officially or not, this is  the band that refreshes the parts that a lot of folk music can’t reach.

You can find Sam Kelly online here

He is also on Facebook , and Twitter

~

All words and live photography by Mike Ainscoe. You can find more of Mike’s writing on Louder Than War at his author’s archive. He can be found on Facebook and his website is www.michaelainscoephotography.co.uk

 

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  1. I just wanted to say thank you for your kind and encouraging words about Louis and Isaac.

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