Farro [Live Review – The Borderline, London, 29/11/2016]

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Playing the Borderline is a rite of passage for every musician who steps onto its legendary stage. Located moments away from Denmark Street, London’s own Tin Pan Alley, the Borderline is the perfect location for the world’s songwriters to showcase their latest efforts. Located below ground, it’s a place where songs can rise into the heavens, or sink without trace even deeper into the earth.

Hailing from Nashville, another of the world’s most important musical locations, Josh Farro naturally knows a thing or two about penning quality songs. A freshly minted solo artist who cut his teeth in Paramore before leaving and carving out a territory of his own, Farro’s songwriting chops are beyond doubt. Still, with every show comes the opportunity to prove yourself anew – and at the Borderline, Farro did just that.

Faced with a slim turnout at the end of a long and gruelling winter road, a large percentage of the world’s musicians would consider said circumstances an excuse to slack off. Farro and his band, being consummate pros, did not. Instead, they played their hearts out – and the Borderline crowd found themselves treated to a full-on rock show both intimate, and epic.

Quickly hitting a chemistry-fuelled groove with On A Wire before tipping into Color Rush and Dear Love, Farro’s opening segment was a clear statement of intent, full of fighting spirit and pure rock energy. After the first of two new songs, a slice of quality pop-rock, came gritty ballad Islands – a song about Josh Farro’s parents’ divorce that hit the Borderline as hard as the day it was written. Throw in a cathartically passionate outro, and you can consider that song well and truly played, not just performed.

Dynamic shifts are a crucial but often neglected rock staple; maintaining maximum intensity for the full duration of a set tends to exhaust all but the toughest of crowds. Stripping things down to acoustic guitar and three-part harmony vocals for Home and a tambourine-enhanced cover of Fleet Foxes’ White Winter Hymnal was a great move, making the fully electrified full-band version of Lose You all the more impactful. From there, it was plain sailing through Say The Word and a cover of Coldplay’s Charlie Brown.

Next up: one funky highlight in the form of a second new song which came complete with a dancing contest. This one sounded like a serious potential chart-botherer, indicating that for all that’s come before, Farro’s solo journey is really only just beginning. Closing the set came current fan favourites Cliffs and Walkways, Farro’s guitar tones heavy, joyous, and uplifting right to the end.

This show was probably the last time British Farro fans will have had the chance to experience his music in such intimate confines. From great songs to pitch-perfect vocals, stunning melodies, dynamic mastery, a great band (especially drummer Tyler, a formidable powerhouse who never overpowered the rest of the band), guts and heart and balls and swagger and everything else you could ask for from a pop-rock artist…Farro has it. The next time he heads in this direction, there’s little doubt he’ll be playing bigger venues, and taking them over with as much conviction and consummate professionalism as he did the Borderline.

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Posted on 01 December 2016

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