Friday, 3 July 2015

Filling the Dance Floor with Songs for an Empty Room

Walking into some illicit card game or speakeasy...

The Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen is a trendy 3 in1 all purpose space, a cocktail bar, pizza restaurant and spit and sawdust live music venue. As I venture inside through the pavement café tables I am searching for the slightest evidence that I have the right place. As I travel deeper into the complex I spot a darkened door in a far corner, with yet another beyond it – it might be the venue, but then again I might just as easily be walking into some illicit card game or speakeasy!

Thankfully, it is the venue, and as I enter I immediately feel old. My Grey Horse are setting up and their fans seem to be too young to be in such a place. I can tell by their sideway glances that they think I am too old to be here and that they probably assume I am a parent of one of the band!

I am actually here because I heard My Grey Horse support Lily and Meg and loved their well-crafted songs with beautiful harmonies and interesting arrangements. Tonight they don’t disappoint.

We have gatecrashed a rehearsal...
The crowd grows throughout their set, mainly younger things, apart from myself and a slightly older couple in a constant embrace who appear very much in love. The young crowd responds enthusiastically to each song, but there is more passion from the audience than there is on stage! There is no interaction with the crowd, no outward show of joy, and it is as if we have gatecrashed a rehearsal. My Grey Horse appear to be taking very little enjoyment from what they do! Are they just trying to be cool musicians? Is it all a carefully chosen persona? Do they not really care? Are they already bored of the songs they have written? Whatever the reason, it adds nothing to their set and threatens to take much away from their obvious talent.

During the interval I spend a futile 10 minutes waiting at the cocktail bar trying to get a drink, then, thinking I’m clever, I try and get served in the restaurant, but fail. I head back into the venue and get served straight away!

How much more 70's could you get....
Matt Owens takes to the stage. I really came to listen to My Grey Horse but I am happy to stay and hear him – I was never a big Noah and the Whale fan but I did see them once at the Green Man Festival and am intrigued to see how the solo career of their bass palyer has developed.  As I look around, the audience now seems totally different, apart from the loving couple who are now propping each other up by the bar, apparently afraid that if they let each other go they might fall over! It appears that most of the original audience couldn’t be bothered to stay, but have been replaced by those who couldn’t be bothered to listen to a support band they knew nothing about!

What is the point of going to a gig only to listen to a band or artist you know you like? Stay at home and listen to your CD collection!

The first thing that strikes me about the set is that there is a very heavy 1970’s influence. This is something of a surprise, especially as his speakeasy banter between songs tells us he is just 24 (unless my maths is wrong!) Although how more 70’s could you get than his keyboard player who appears to be a disturbing cross between Brian May and the keyboard player from Sparks!

I am hearing Smokie and Eagles (in particular Lyin’ Eyes) but I’m not complaining. It is a really enjoyable set. In complete contrast to the worthy, cool, impassionate My Grey Horse, Owens is playing songs with a joy that oozes out of every chord. It is infectious and the crowd is responding not just with whooping and applause but with dancing too.

“Dancing at an acoustic gig!” beams Owens. He is really enjoying the launch party for his new solo CD.

The songs on the new CD are a deliberate nod to Owens’ early influences (not Smokie or Eagles) but Young, Waits and Zevon. Yet despite the heavy 70’s feel the concert is very much of the here and now. The set doesn’t have the feel of a tribute act or the reunion tour of some 70’s supergroup. It feels like a 21st century gig.

Songs from an empty room - that old couple should just get a room....

The album title is ‘Songs for an Empty Room’. By the middle of the set the title seems strangely inappropriate as the crowd has swelled and the void between stage and audience is filled with people dancing. I’m sure in listening to the album cold you would never envisage such songs filling a dance floor, but I’m certain it has as much to do with the enthusiasm and sheer delight Owens has at being a musician as it has to do with the songs themselves.  My Grey Horse could learn much from Owen’s experience, insight and delight!

The whole audience has been moved – changed even - and we are privileged to share in such an experience. It is only, I’m certain, the old loving couple who (still firmly embraced) might have preferred that the Songs for an Empty Room had been played in an empty room!

Gig: 13 of 50
Date of Gig: Thurs. 18th June 2015


The Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen

My Grey Horse
Matt Owens

Running total of artists seen 33

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