With a pedigree like Slaughter Beach, Dog, – Jake Ewald’s solo venture – there are expectations to meet when you perform live. Born from a bout of writer’s block with rock band Modern Baseball, the singer songwriter, has taken things down a notch, strapped on the acoustic (and occasionally a harmonica) and created something different and fresh and definitely ‘other’ than the band that came before it.
The tone bears a resemblance in part to Andy Hall’s side project Right Away, Great Captain but less melancholy but they share the same style of story-telling. If Modern Baseball never return, it’s good to know Ewald is still making quality music of a completely different variety.
The crowd fills out at the front in the minutes leading up to the band’s allotted time of 9.00pm. Beers and beards are scattered in equal measure as the lights go out and the band take the stage and they begin proceedings with moody track ‘The Maze’. The song is subdued start to a rock show but, as happens at any Manchester Orchestra performance, the track is reimagined in part as it descends into a guitar heavy squall at the bridge.
Somewhat surprisingly, this band is a bruisngly heavy beast of a live machine. Rather than smoothing things out and polishing it up for a live setting, each track is given a roughly sharpened edge courtesy of a huge guitar sound that provides scope to work with as Hull and co. go to work several times in each track. Guitar stabs, bends out of nowhere, palm mutes and massive sounding distorted interludes that have never sounded so raw mark each track – I have no idea where that guitar sound comes from but it’s the best I’ve heard in a live setting.
‘A Black Mile To The Surface’ is a depressing album truth be told, it’s at once captivating and consistently disheartening, and also probably my favourite album of 2017. That is, In its studio form. However, tonight (with the notable exception of ‘The Alien’) these tracks sound downright aggressive. Hull roars down the mic as he pummels his telecaster into submission while bass player, Andy Princes, moves around with such enthusiasm he’s in danger of head butting his band mates or machine-gunning his bass off the stage.
The set leans heavily on new material with seven tracks making the cut. New tracks are played in album order but are interrupted by a very welcome – and very loud – ‘Shake It Out’, the song that almost broke the band in Australia ‘I’ve Got Friends’, the beautifully orchestrated ‘Simple Math’ and lumbering giant of a doom-rock anthem, ‘Cope’.
The only nod to older fans is a ‘I Can Barely Breathe’ from 2006 album ‘Like A Virgin Losing A Child’ which sits easily along side tracks spanning the career but it takes fan favourite ‘The River’ to close things out before the inevitable encore which showcased ‘The Silence’ in all of it’s atmospheric glory. I look down at my watch and realise they’ve only played for 70 minutes but you can’t really feel cheated. The set was sharp and totally on point and those telecasters were loud as hell and I don’t know about you but that’s what I really want in a rock show.
IMAGES (c) Sam Gilmore Photography