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Live Review: The Heavy North, Casino – Liverpool Arts Club, 24/9/2022.

The infinite variety of set times and my own inattention to detail never cease to amaze me. I once turned up at 8 pm to a well-known Liverpool venue to be told the evening’s headliners would not be on stage for another 3 and-a-half hours. Tonight, arriving at 7 pm at Liverpool Arts Club‘s Theatre to see The Heavy North‘s hometown gig, I had already missed the evenings opening act Leonie and the Lawless.

I was however in time to see the entire, entertaining set from local band Casino. There’s a clue to Casino’s style and sound in the band’s name. The Liverpool five-piece played original compositions that bore all the hallmarks of classic period Tamala Motown and Stax releases – the type of songs that would have filled the well-sprung wooden floor of Wigan’s most famous building. They opened their set with the four-to-the floor stomper Love Go On, new song Visions, and finished with Back In The Day. The chucking guitar riffs, and silky-smooth, sparkling vocals show a band at ease with their source material. Some might think that a band like Casino, rooted in classic Motown sounds an odd support choice for The Heavy North. Nothing of the sort. Although both bands were working off differing musical recipes, they were both using the same basic ingredient – Soul.

The main members of The Heavy North strolled on to the Arts Club stage to the brooding strains of The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club‘s Beat The Devil’s Tattoo. The first section of their set was dedicated to songs from the band’s Dive Bar Blues EP – Bring Me Love, Some Good Lovin, and the dark, moody, psychedelic Don’t You Wait For Me. This last tune had an unmistakable feel of The Doors and finds singer Kenny Stuart channelling his inner Jim Morrison, and keyboardist Ste Penn manifesting Ray Manzarek. The overture ends with a stunning, extended cover of Pink Floyd‘s Breathe (In The Air) which was eerily completed in near total darkness.

The Heavy North

The reason for the obscurity became apparent as singer Stuart announces, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, The Electric Soul Machine Orchestra!’. Lights up, and the band are joined by a string trio, a brass section, and additional backing vocalists. The Heavy North were bringing to an end their 8 date UK tour in style. Speaking to members of the packed-out Arts Club crowd, some of them had seen the band at earlier dates on the tour and had felt compelled to see the journey through and attend the hometown finale. Attendees had travelled from as far away as London, Devon and even Austria for what they hoped to be an ‘I was there moment’.

The major part of the evening saw The Heavy North play the entirety of their debut album – Electric Soul Machine. The album is a stunning rock and roll odyssey, and played in tonight’s ornate setting, with 12-piece band, it was a joy to behold. The Heavy North have described themselves as a ‘garage-rock band’ and with booming classic rock tunes like Darkness In Your Eyes and Satisfy You they certainly live up to their own billing. Adding to their credentials Better Change had a gnarly, punk feel to it reminiscent of The Sex Pistols Submission. Stuart’s vocals were forceful and potent, Jose Ibanez’s guitar solos were blistering, and the whole band were tighter than a speed-skaters racing suit.

The Heavy North are not a one-dimensional band. They are equally adept at showing their soulful side, and the genuinely bluesy songs in their repertoire, songs like Falling Down on You and To the Wind I Go were passionately well delivered. The songs that most benefitted from the full orchestra treatment were the band’s most soulful tunes, especially the set’s finale, As Long As You’re Here With Me, which with addition of violins, cello, and additional backing vocals, moved the song’s performance on to another level.

The Heavy North

I’ve been banging on about how good The Heavy North are for the last year-and-a-half, and this would be the point where I say that they just keeping getting better and better. I can’t in good conscience say that. The Heavy North were frighteningly good the first time I saw them, and they have since never deviated from their own very high standards.

They do have one more gig planned on this tour, and if you’re lucky enough to live in Gibraltar, get yourself down to the Arena on Friday 7th October when The Heavy North are set to rock The Rock.

Ian Dunphy

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