Fred Abbott plus special guests Hollie Stephenson and The Villainy
Thursday 21st January 2016
The Forge, Camden, London, United Kingdom
This was certainly a night of firsts for me. Firstly, I had never been to The Forge in Camden before so I was interested to try a new venue in the heart of Camden as it is well known for its music with places such as The Jazz Cafe, The Blues Kitchen, The Black Heart, Underworld and The Electric Ballroom being in the vicinity.
On entry, I noticed straight away how intimate the room was and it was all lit by pastel coloured lighting. It is a little confusing as the front entrance of the venue blends in with the street so well that you wouldn’t think it was even there! The atmosphere is incredibly laid-back with a restaurant upstairs and glass partition doors in the audience area. The overall vibe was comfortable and airy and I was excited for the evening’s music.
The first artist to perform was Hollie Stephenson who has received support from musician, songwriter and record producer Dave Stewart (who is probably best known for his work with Annie Lennox when they were The Eurythmics). Like many other artists such as Joanne Shaw Taylor, SHEL, The Lake Poets and more Stewart saw potential in Stephenson and helped her with the creation and recording process of her self-titled debut album which is released on Friday 6th May 2016 via MEMBRAN/D.S.E.
Arriving onstage with a three-piece band (Tom – Bass, Josh – Drums and Liam – Keyboards) she opened with ‘Revelation’ which had a funky bassline. I have seen her perform a solo acoustic set before at Under The Bridge (Read our review of that show here: http://bit.ly/1lD5EGU) However, I felt that she was lacking a bit of confidence as there can be a sense of vulnerability when you are up there on your own.
This was not the case tonight though as I think having the support from this soul band helped her come out of her shell as it were. Hollie is clearly influenced by people such as Duffy, Dionne Bromfield (the late Amy Winehouse’s goddaughter) and the stunning Billie Holiday.
On Otis Redding’s ‘Sittin’ On The Dock Of A Bay’ the keyboard was first-class whilst ‘Lover’s Game’ reminds me of Meghan Trainor’s ‘I’m Gonna Love You (Like I’m Gonna Lose You). In conclusion, I get the feeling that musically, she would’ve like to have been born in the 1950’s and although her set was well-received, her own material at present seems a little introspective for it to appeal to other than her peer group. But being very young gives her a clear road ahead to use her vocal talent. With that being said, it was the best live performance of her’s I’ve seen. For more information visit her official website here: http://bit.ly/1pDUDHG
After a short changeover, The Villainy appeared and it was completely different to the soulful Stephenson which on a three-act bill is always refreshing. In smart black attire with skinny red ties, this Swedish four-piece wasted no time as they launched into the melodic ‘Born To Shine’ which featured military style drumming and then the foot-tapping ‘You Should Be Afraid’ which showed that they are a cross between The Hives and The Fray. The bass player had a Motorhead sticker on his instrument which seemed appropriate given the passing of Lemmy and it was great to see that they were multi-instrumentalists as well. The lead vocal on ‘My Heart Explodes’ had elements of singer-songwriter David Gray and I think they are a really great find. For more information visit the band’s official website here: http: //bit.ly/1LRJXzu
After the final interval, the lights went down and the crowd welcomed tonight’s headliner Fred Abbott. This was my second first of the night as I had heard of Fred Abbott but had never seen him perform live, Until now.
Backed by two guitarists, a drummer, an electric bass player and a male vocalist Abbott began with the rocky ‘Nobody Wants To Come Down’ and it reminded me of The New York Dolls in particular ‘Personality Crisis’. What a start!
‘Funny How Good It Feels’ was very summery and featured a guitar solo from Abbott which was fluid whilst the idea of a male vocalist (his name was McGoo and he was an absolute pro) works really well as The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band has proved with the fantastic Noah Hunt.
‘Hollywood’ from his new album ‘Serious Poke’ was inspired by a bar in Hollywood and as he sang the line ‘This is Hollywood. Where Richard Burton stood’ I immediately thought that this song would be very good to drive to. Fred Abbott’s voice is very vintage and combine that with this enjoyable songs you have a perfect fit.
A favourite of mine was ‘ Honey’ as it channels Fred’s love of Tom Petty but with the tonality of Iggy Pop and the song brought a bit of California sunshine to a dark evening in Camden. ‘It Don’t Look Like Him’ was a well-written piece about abusive relationships that had soaring guitar. It would be perfect for a domestic abuse charity in terms of advertising. Just a thought…
‘We’re gonna pick it up a bit now’ Abbott explained before the energetic ‘You’ve Got A Lot To Learn A Lot Love’ and kudos to rhythm guitarist Malcolm Barkley. Abbott is also a very skilled slide guitarist as ‘What I Like’ proved when he brought a bit of country twang to the proceedings.
The next part of the set saw Abbott introduce fellow member of Noah and The Whale, Matt Owens who walked onstage with a beautiful Gretsch guitar for a captivating version of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Atlantic City’. It had wonderful harmonies and for me was better than the Ed Sheeran version that was done in recent years.
‘You’ve Got A Heart So Big’ could’ve been written by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers as both Owens and Abbott’s guitars weaved in and out as Abbott just watched in amazement at his friend shredding on his Gretsch ferociously. ‘I don’t know where we go from here!’ Fred proclaimed to an excited crowd. Everyone in that room felt like we had been taken to another place and to put it simply; the night was full of great memorable songs and high-class musicianship in an intimate venue.
I would urge you to see this man and his astonishing band for yourself when he tours the UK with several acts including the blues rock band SIMO, the classic band The Zombies and up-and-coming band Moxie Kicks in 2016. He will also take to the stage at JLTT favourite Cornbury Music Festival in Oxfordshire. All of the tour dates and ticket links are listed below this article.
Images: Kieran White at KW Media
Fred Abbott’s album ‘Serious Poke’ is out now now Lojinx. In addition, Fred Abbott will be touring the UK at the following shows and venues:
Tuesday 5th April 2016 – The Basement, York, United Kingdom (Supporting SIMO) http://bit.ly/1Un2Dd8
Wednesday 6th April 2016 – The Greystones, Sheffield, United Kingdom (Supporting SIMO) http://bit.ly/1XWsMO7
Thursday 7th April 2016 – The Barfly, Camden, London, United Kingdom (Supporting SIMO) http://bit.ly/1ZFxcdy
Tuesday 12th April 2016 – The Barfly, Camden, London, United Kingdom (Supporting Moxie Kicks) http://bit.ly/1pE08Gr
Saturday 4th June 2016 – Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom (Supporting The Zombies) http://bit.ly/1LRYWtq
Thursday 7th July 2016 – Aberdare Coliseum, Aberdare, United Kingdom (Supporting The Zombies) http://bit.ly/21NCGCz
Friday 8th July 2016 – Komedia, Bath, United Kingdom (Supporting The Zombies) http://bit.ly/1ZFy1Dc
Saturday 9th July 2016 – The Brook, Southampton, United Kingdom (Supporting The Zombies) http://bit.ly/1TcynAL
Sunday 10th July 2016 – The Cornbury Music Festival, Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/1SslWkz
For more information on Fred Abbott visit his official website: http://bit.ly/1Tcyfkt
(Many thanks to Kieran White at KW Media and Terry Emm at Cannonball PR for help with this review)