Review of Soulsec, Barnes

There is a generally accepted theory that the happier the musicians are on stage, then the more enjoyable the concert will be for the audience. Therein lies the dilemma. Such is the level of skill and technical perfection that we demand today that often the pressure and concentration show through in the faces of the artists, meaning that some of the artistry and performance are lost. We were very lucky indeed then to witness Soulsec with not just a new name and a new line-up, but also by no means over-rehearsed. It was obvious that at times some of the musicians were wondering exactly how the songs were meant to go, and in case you think that is a criticism or may have lead to a rough edge to the performance, then nothing could be further from the truth. Soulsec enjoyed every second of this gig, and any moments of doubt about how the songs should go were treated as opportunity for improvisation and for humour. All five were as laid back as it possible to be without physically falling off the stage, in particular Brad who plays his five string fretless bass with such ease it seems like an extension of his arm. New guitarist Andy looked cool, starting the gig sitting on a stool but ending up on his feet for the encore. Vinnie held a solid rhythm section as usual, and drove the jazzy tempo that was used to great effect on a number of songs, particularly "Eight Days". Richard's piano playing is at times unbelievable - the arpeggios in Lady Grinning Soul are as metronomically perfect as if played through a sequencer. With Richard's hair ever longer, at times he resembled Cousin Itt from The Addams Family.
This semi-acoustic manifestation of Soulsec is easily my favourite format for this band - I very much hope they record like this some day. It is clear that Andy is the final piece in the jigsaw to complete what should now be the permanent line-up. In fact for the first two songs, it was just Paul and Andy on stage, later joined by Richard for a three piece before Brad and Vinnie completed the line-up.
Such was the good humour both on stage and in the audience that even the woman in the flats next door who is trying to get the venue closed probably would have approved of this one.
My only personal issue with the evening was that my plan to partake of pre-gig victuals in the adjoining Thai Bistro were scuppered by the band themselves who were huddled in the corner of the restaurant finalising their battle plans when I went in - it would have been SO uncool to continue going in, so I had to make do with the pizzeria next door to the pub. At least they had a forno di legna. And whilst we are on the subject of refreshment there was no bar in the venue itself, necessitating a stroll back to the main bar for a top-up.
This wasn't the longest gig in the world, with only a single-song encore and I think about 15 songs altogether. But its Quality rather than Quantity that we are after. I really enjoyed this gig, as did everyone else I spoke to. Lets see if the full "electric" version of the band can find the same magic sparkle.

Anthony Goodwin

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