Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Echobelly - West End Centre, Aldershot - May 16th, 2019

It was my birthday and I was idly thinking that I really haven't seen (or have got plans to see) many bands this year, so I did an online search to see what I could find - What I found was 'A Special Acoustic Evening with Echobelly' just down the road, a couple of nights later...

Now, if you're about 10-15 years younger than me, you probably remember them, the way I remember 'A Flock of Seagulls' or 'The Bodysnatchers' - A band that were around, had some success, but never really hit the 'big time!'.

Me, I recognised the name, but actually couldn't think of anything they'd done, so a bit of Googling revealed a pretty good sounding 'Brit Pop' group with a sweet sounding female lead singer and some year old black and white videos of the singer and lead guitarist, sounding pretty good (maybe better!) still.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and so I found myself snuggling into the tiny arch of the West End Centre in Aldershot.

I grabbed a beer and found the support act had started. A woman singing and playing a keyboard and a chap on a guitar. The singer had definite influences of Bjork. I have to say it wasn't really my cuppa, but the sound was surprisingly good and it wasn't awful, as many support acts are, either through appalling sound balancing or lack of talent.

The archway emptied out and I shuffled forward with my now half empty pint glass.

Unnoticed, and before most of the crowd had returned from the bar or wherever else they'd been, a small woman and a tall man appeared on the stage, which is almost at floor level in the West End Centre.

Smiling, the woman (who was obviously Sonya Madan), said "Hi" and she and the tall man (Glenn Johansson) settled themselves onto their seats. Echobelly, on this tour, are formed of just these two original members, and songwriters, of the band.

The setlist below is from other gigs on their acoustic tour and may not be 100% right, from memory, for Aldershot, but they performed a mix of material from their heyday in the mid '90s and more recent material, mainly from their recent Anarchy and Alchemy album.

Glenn's guitar work sounded pretty good to me (although I'm no musician myself) and I think Sonya's voice is better now than in her '90s performances, richer and fuller to my ear, although there were a couple of moments where I think she just failed to reach a high note, but that may have been the audio equipment rather than her. Generally, though, they sounded crisp and clear and her voice is up there amongst the most pleasant I've heard and overall, the sound in the West End Centre was as good for them as it had been for their support act.

Many of the audience were 50ish year old men, some of who seemed transfixed by Sonya, but I was the only person who cheered when she announced that the next track was 'Faces in the Mirror', from their recent album, suggesting most of the audience were on a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

For me, though, this was a voyage of discovery and I have to say it was a highly enjoyable one.

Glenn's guitar playing and Sonya's lovely voice and the venue lent the whole gig a very intimate feeling and was one of the most enjoyable I've been to.

The more famous singles like King of the Kerb, Dark Therapy, Insomniac and, of course (he writes as if he remembered it!), Great Things, got the best reception, but to my unfamiliar ear, the newer stuff was just as enjoyable and, probably, more mature and rounded (no great surprise that they would get better at writing songs as time goes by, I guess).

The gig was short (before the last song of the encore, Sonya said "This really is it, because we don't have anything else!") at around an hour, but perfectly formed.

I didn't know anything about Echobelly, except the name, a week before, but by the time I left, I was a definite fan.

If they're in your area, go see them!

Setlist

Something Hot in a Cold Country
Car Fiction
A Good Day
Faces in the Mirror
On Turn On
Sparks
Bulldog Baby
Firefly
King of the Kerb
Great Things
Dark Therapy

Encore:
Insomniac
Giving It All

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