I’m lucky enough to have stumbled upon The Temperance Movement whilst they were still playing tiny venues; when much of the set was acoustic and vocals were performed from in front of the microphones. In the last couple of years and on the back of two critically acclaimed albums, they have progressed to share stadium stages with The Rolling Stones and now sell out some of our largest venues. Whilst nobody would wish to deny them their success, a significant part of the fan base (myself included) miss the intimacy of those early days and those very special gigs.
So, an announcement at the end of November that the band would shortly be playing a series of three stripped back acoustic shows in small venues in London, Manchester and Glasgow was met with considerable excitement and fans rushed to obtain tickets for what might well be the last opportunity to see the band in this guise. The first of these shows was at Bush Hall (a treat in itself) in West London and I was fortunate enough to be there.
The support slot tonight was filled by The Pearl Harts, a female two piece of Royal Blood/The Graveltones persuasions, who unassumingly took the cramped stage and made it their own with a fine collection of songs and an easy rapport with the crowd. Having previously played supports for both Garbage and Blues Pills amongst others, it’s safe to say The Pearl Harts are a band on the rise and one for which a listening ear ought to be reserved. Whilst their full on electric performance is deserving of the highest calibre of ear plugs (very loud, not very bad), I was glad to see the acoustic show and plan on building up to the ear-ringing experience at a later date.
Whist not detracting from the music in any way, I couldn’t help but be drawn to vocalist and guitarist, Kirsty’s boots – which appeared to be held together with electrical tape. She said they brought her luck. I can only assume they steer her around puddles.
Around 30 minutes later, The Temperance Movement arrived on stage to great applause and set about their work. There have been some changes since I last saw a stripped back TTM show. Fifteen months ago, Guitarist Luke Potashnick left the band – ably replaced by Matt White – and at the end of November, drummer Damon Wilson also announced he was moving on. At very short notice, Simon Lea stepped up to occupy the drummer’s stool and I thought he was quite brilliant this evening. A long-term replacement has yet to be announced, but anybody harbouring fears that normal service could not be resumed in Wilson’s absence need not have worried. One other change from an electric TTM gig was that around a third of the stage was occupied by a grand piano, an instrument that frontman Phil Campbell put to great use on a number of songs.
The set list drew from both albums in equal measure, with some wonderful arrangements of some of the rockier songs from the sophomore White Bear and as one might expect, some beautiful renditions of the ballads on the eponymously titled debut album. Hearing songs such as Smouldering, Chinese Lanterns, Pride, and (especially) Lovers & Fighters from the first record in this format is truly an emotional experience.
I’m also pleased to say that the audience were fully on board with this and the respect shown during the quieter passages made for a very pleasant change to the usual practice of having to tolerate people who came to the gig solely to shout at their mates at the bar. Pride was dedicated to ‘absent friends’ and it didn’t take too much imagination to assume that Campbell had Potashnick and Wilson in mind amongst others.
As well as the established songs, the band played a mighty fine cover of Radiohead’s sublime Just and in the encore Phil introduced us to a new song entitled Children that was performed by Campbell at the piano and Matt White, stage left on guitar. The rest of the band came out to play the final number, A Pleasant Peace I Feel; one of the sweetest tracks on White Bear. As founding guitarist Paul Sayer passed behind Campbell on returning to the stage, he ran his hand along Campbell’s back. It was a minimalist, but touching gesture that sums up the warmth and feeling that exists in this band.
The remaining two dates on the tour (The Deaf Institute, Manchester and Òran Mór, Glasgow) are sold out, but if The Temperance Movement were to announce a run of dates such as this in the future, do whatever you can to get a ticket. I assure you, you’ll be glad you did.
Review & Photography by Simon Reed. The Temperance Movement Acoustic Set at Bush Hall 6th December 2016.
Simon Reed has his own music photography site here: http://www.musicalpictures.co.uk