Eliza Doolittle & THOS / Bat and Ball / Tweed & Hyenas / Tusks [Live Review – The Boileroom, Guildford, 9/1/15]
The fact that this show even happened is a true testament to the strength and indomitable passion of its organisers. Few life experiences are as devastating as losing a friend or family member to cancer; when that happens, most of us would become too overwhelmed to function, and with good reason. Nobody would have blamed Tom Morley and the team behind Smile For Hatti (a campaign set up to support the courageous and inspiring Hatti Sandall, who sadly passed away only three days before this gig) had they rescheduled or cancelled this fundraiser – but they didn’t. For that, they deserve all the respect in the world – not to mention the sheer success of this awesome event, which raised over £2000 for Smile For Hatti (which is in the process of becoming a new charity, to which future donations will be directed) and Sarcoma UK.
As far as opening acts go, they don’t get much better than Tusks. Frankly, I would have paid the asking price for this show just for the first set on the bill – and that is no exaggeration. Tusks (aka Emily Underhill) trades on tunes that bring to mind a Submotion Orchestra / Bjork hybrid, full of minimalist electronics, soulful lyricism, and captivating vocal work – but this set also offered plenty of variety through a well-structured set list. Underhill is no indie-electronica one trick pony; there were plenty of more traditional singer-songwriter moments on offer too, with the whole becoming so much more than the sum of its parts. Absolutely beautiful.
Tweed & Hyenas are fresh faces, but their delicately nuanced guitar-fuelled jazz-fusion / soul songs went over excellently. Juxtaposing angular chords and melodies with softly-spoken vocals tends to elicit a strangely festive atmosphere – but Tweed & Hyenas are gritty and deep enough to remind an audience that jazz is for life, not just for Christmas. Bat and Ball, however, were far from festive. Musically, they’re great, and they have a reputation as a quality act – but this time out, obvious in-band tensions led to pointed stares, fed-up looks, and body language that suggested Bat and Ball would rather have been anywhere but onstage, putting a black cloud over an otherwise cool set.
If it hadn’t been announced that this was THOS‘s first performance before they started playing, nobody present would ever have guessed. Blessed with a frontman not afraid to stare down smartphone cameras and capable of delivering meat-and-potatoes rock’n’soul with hints of spicy greatness and an impressively professional tightness, THOS grabbed their slot by the scruff of its neck to rapturous applause from a well-lubricated crowd. Throw in Eliza Doolittle sharing vocal duties with THOS main man Tom Morley, and there’s only this left to say: THOS. Were. Immense.
Overall, this was a truly great show. As far as tributes to inspirational friends go, nobody could ask for more than this.
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