Live: The Temperance Movement @ The O2 Forum Kentish Town
I’ve been lucky enough to have been experiencing one of Britain’s most promising new rock acts The Temperance Movement since the days when their beautiful ballad Chinese Lanterns was performed from in front of the microphones. Just two years ago, an estate agent would have struggled to sell the venues as deceptively spacious. Since then, the fan base has exploded and support slots on stadium stages with the Rolling Stones have cemented their pedigree. The long-awaited sophomore album White Bear was released to rave reviews on January 16th and currently resides in first place on the UK rock album chart.
Tonight marks the end of the current UK tour and the venues are causing the estate agents less stress. This London show ought to have been played in the grand surroundings of the Shepherds Bush Empire. One of my favourite places to see a band, the Empire contains so many levels it looks like a wedding cake that’s been injected with growth hormone. But the current structural woes in Shepherds Bush meant that the gig was switched to The Forum, Kentish Town – a room with the aesthetics of a Tupperware container. Still, it did mean more ticket sales.
The support tonight came from The Sheepdogs, surely the best band that practically nobody in the UK has ever heard of and certainly one that has caused a stir at every show they’ve played on the tour so far. Looking like 4/5 of a geography teachers field trip, only bassist Ryan Gullen appeared conventionally rock ‘n’ roll, pawing away at a Fender Precision as his flailing hair defied gravity on the off-beat.
Although Canada’s finest export since Rush and checked lumberjack shirts, their southern country blues-rock sound of harmony guitar and vocal lines belies their Saskatchewan roots and owes not a little to The Allman Brothers and Creedence Clearwater Revival. By the time they closed out, the floor of the Forum was full and the crowd was highly appreciative. A headline tour beckons in the spring and I would urge anyone with a passing interest in Americana to go along. You’ll be glad you did.
So The Sheepdogs delivered mouth-watering hors d’oeuvres, but there was obviously a heightened sense of expectation as The Temperance Movement took The Forum stage. The entrance was much as their stage persona in general: four members of the band exuding quiet confidence as they assumed their positions whilst vocalist Phil Campbell bounced, strutted and swaggered his way to the mic. Campbell, in silk varsity jacket and aviators, is an alumnus of the Jagger school of stagecraft – his arms and legs making random staccato moves as if a maniacal puppeteer were controlling him from above.
What happened next defied expectations. Paul Sayer from stage left fired up Mick Ronson’s iconic opening to Ziggy Stardust and The Forum was engulfed in a further wave of Bowie nostalgia. It was certainly a heartfelt and emotive tribute and Campbell’s skywards look at the close with hands held above his head was extremely moving.
Bowie notwithstanding, the set list tonight was a well-judged mix between the promotion of White Bear and the familiarity of tracks from the excellent eponymously titled debut. By the time the brilliantly catchy Midnight Black came along, Campbell had dispatched the jacket and was in vest-top only mode, more sensible attire given the levels of energy he exudes. Whilst the antics at the front were very familiar, the dynamics at the back have certainly changed. Luke Potashnick, one half of the original twin guitar partnership, left the band prior to the commencement of the tour and occupying his place tonight is Matt White, who previously performed with James Morrison amongst others. Opposite White, Paul Sayer took a more commanding role, coming to the stage apron several times. His extended solo in the excellent Pride was a great piece of work, though the vibe is of a reluctant guitar hero lost in the moment rather more than of one wanting to show off to the crowd.
The new songs were very well received but it’s during the anthemic numbers such as Only Friend and Take It Back that the band are truly in their element. The community ‘Ohh, Oh Ohh’s’ during the latter could probably be heard in Chalk Farm, though it does help if you write tunes that people can sing without necessarily knowing any of the words. The set ended in a sea of smoke (the smoke machine salesman did really well tonight) with the funky strains of Battle Lines, a great cut from the new album (White Bear). Having rocked out for a good 90 minutes, the encore triumvirate of I Hope I’m Not Losing My Mind, A Pleasant Peace I Feel and Lovers And Fighters provided an opportunity to reflect upon a great night and wallow in the other half of The Temperance Movement coin. There is an exquisite fragility in the air whenever Campbell gets his acoustic guitar out.
Drummer Damon Wilson shared his birthday with us all tonight. As he left the stage, he had the strains of Happy Birthday ringing in his ears from the hard core faithful at the front. I doubt he’s had many better birthday presents than that.
Live Review and Photography by Simon Reed. Simon has his own photography website here: www.musicalpictures.co.uk
The Temperance Movement @ The Forum, London 27th January 2016.