Live Review: Earth/James Blackshaw

Live Review: Earth + James Blackshaw
Venue: St Andrew’s Church, Brighton
Date: 16th April 2009


Tonight marks the first time I’ve stepped foot into a church since I was about thirteen. It’s a surreal experience, knowing the kind of music that will soon be reverberating around the 181-year-old walls of St Andrew’s Church, and there is a palatable sense of hushed reverence as I walk in to find local James Blackshaw performing alone with his acoustic guitar. At first glance, it may seem a strange support act for a band that is known for their omnipotent volume, but Blackshaw woos the audience with gentle, unchallenging melodies with just his acoustic guitar. His nerve holds well and the silent respect the audience pay him is probably helped by our surroundings but, towards the end, you can feel a tingle of restlessness in the air as another drawn-out guitar solo is started.

Now, I have to own up here – I’ve never listened to Earth on record. I’ve been aware of them (although it would seem that everyone is aware that guitarist Dylan Carson was the man who purchased the shotgun that found its way into a certain Kurt’s mouth) but, as of tonight, not one of their songs had passed in between my ears. It doesn’t seem to matter however. Within moments of the opener, ‘Carrion Crow’, heads are gently nodding in time to the dramatic crashes of Adrienne Davies’ cymbals. The woman practically commands your attention, using her kit as some form of punctuation system that comes crashing down upon Carson’s fluent guitar lines. The other musicians’ performances are ones of sedate melancholy, never completely overwhelming the senses but constantly buzzing through your being. Despite the somewhat negative connotations that drone music has, in tonight’s setting, Earth seem to have found a captive audience that are utterly spellbound by their noise.


The set consists of tracks from last year’s well received release, ‘The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull’ and a couple of choices from ‘Hex’, although the finale offers a treat for new and old fans alike in the form of an unnamed new track, and the promise that the band are planning to record later in the year. The fresh song didn’t seem like too much of a step away from the more melodic sound that Earth have settled on recently, which may be a mixed blessing for some.

It would be too easy to say that tonight was like some form of religious experience – and to be fair, the set grew repetitive towards its eventual conclusion with there being little difference between one song and the next – but there’s no denying the power of atmosphere the band creates. Carson, a short, unassuming and somewhat tubby frontman was a delight to watch, as he forced out every last morsel of sound from his guitar, and keyboardist Steve Moore’s surprise trombone performance was captivating and a welcome breath of originality. It may very well be the kind of music that struggles to find an audience on an MP3 player or the radio, but Earth’s live performance proved itself to be both captivating and haunting, and certainly worth exploring.

Originally published at Sonic Dice.
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