The Lone Bellow, Islington Assembly Hall, music review: ‘Sweeping grandeur’
PUBLISHED: 14:01 04 February 2016
Greg Wetherall is bowled over by this rabble rousing round of country alt-rock.
A breezy between-song humour punctuates the rather serious, but beautiful, love-torn tunes peppering the oeuvre of Brooklyn’s The Lone Bellow. That is the only possible way to adequately explain the impromptu tongue-in-cheek snippets of Aqua’s Barbie Girl and Savage Garden’s Truly Madly Deeply during the band introductions towards the end of their impressive main set.
Arriving off the back of two rapturously-received records, which includes 2015 sophomore Then Came The Morning, the last time they were in the capital they were filling out the rather more compact 100 Club. This time around, however, their seductive appeal has warranted a venue upgrade. They make the leap with poise and consummate skill, noticeably occupying the expanded space comfortably with songs drawn from an eclectic stylistic palette, mixing alt-rock with country, folk, soul and more.
Kicking off with the moody and atmospheric If You Don’t Love Me, the core three piece of Zach Williams, Kanene Donehey Pipkin and Brian Elmqvist – and augmented by a drummer and keyboardist – stride the stage with purpose and intent. Although the acoustic lament of Marietta is an early standout, it is once they are gathered around a single microphone, thereby evoking a Greenwich Village 1950s/‘60s feel, with songs such as Call To War and Watch Over Us that they truly soar. Therein lies a magical formula, as their honeyed harmonies caress the pained elegies emitting from their guitars and mandolin.
Once reconvened in the full band guise, Cold As It Is shuffles with a bluesy chug, while Heaven Don’t Call Me Home raises the roof. It is a rather satisfying and magical experience, although a little less restraint at times would make things feel a bit more cutting edge. Certainly, their polished old school charm puts them into a camp alongside contemporaries such as the Punch Brothers, and when they close with the gospel-infused title track of their second album, replete with Williams leading the crowd into a chorus of accompanying voices, the sweeping grandeur of the arrangement tips the communal experience into something rather startling indeed.
Rating: 4/5 stars
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