LIVE: Black Country, New Road: live from the Queen Elizabeth Hall

It's hard to argue with their technical industry, and the seven-piece performed impeccably at their Southbank Centre livestream show despite the lack of energy of an expectant audience.
Posted: 8 March 2021 Words: Wes Foster Photos: Mark Allan

Throughout 2020, Black Country, New Road became one of the UK's most known circuit bands. Their brand of offbeat indie has gained them a reputation quickly, even with only a few tracks released up until their very recent debut album. They’re one of only a handful of bands who have managed to set up multiple livestream shows - something reflective of the push to launching their highly-anticipated album, but also their reputation, which precedes them. With only a relatively short lifespan as a band currently, they have gone from playing small venues up to the Southbank Centre in a remarkably swift time.

Beginning with 'Mark’s Theme' and then 'Instrumental' they delay the introduction of vocals for the first ten minutes. These tracks are probably the best examples of their eclectic style though, with punchy rhythm, almost delving into a sort of trad-folk playing style. These moments are what really make them stand out. 'Athens, France' sees the start of their perfect placed vocals. Lyrically they are probably somewhat more 'middle-of-the-road': tales of middle-class woe, kitchen worktops and a wayward self-awareness are themes common in their tracks. 

It's hard to argue with their technical industry, however, which is near perfect. Musically, they can be astounding and that's where 'the pull' comes from. This said, they do at times sound more like a series of different (whilst obviously gifted) musicians thrust together. It’s hard to say what it is - a disinterest, or a manifest of nerves - but they don’t really perform. I’m not sure if this would be more difficult in a livestream or easier - on the one hand there is not the energy to feed from, on the other there is not that audience anxiety. It is that lack of engagement with anything but playing that leaves more of a distance than seems natural, and almost wooden. This sense seems amplified by the corny stock images which are propelled onto the screens behind them. 

It’s an impeccable show, and their instrumentation is perfect. They always, the same in their debut album, seem to leave you feeling there is something missing. Perhaps this is just because they’re a budding band, finding their feet. Perhaps it is because the weight of expectation is too heavy. Hopefully, like many other bands that seem to struggle with the livestream format, this is something which will pass as ‘proper’ live gigs return, allowing them to create a show which carries the intensity that the tracks demand. 

For The First Time is out now on Ninja Tune. Read our full review here.

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