Hermitage Green at The Garage Islington
With a name like Hermitage Green, one can be fairly sure of what to expect from this band – certainly not intense metal or synth-driven electronica – and opening act CC Smugglers sets an intriguing precedent with a collection of folk stylings from around the world. So it’s a little disappointing when Hermitage Green enters to a more traditional setup, with tracks like Aisling and Cloud 9 demonstrating perfectly competent folk-rock, but without daring to be unexpected or unusual. Indistinct vocals and homogenised guitar sounds are melodic, but bring little to connect with. Is it too much to ask for something new?
Fortunately, there’s not long to wait before things improve. The turning point comes in the form of a fascinating mash-up cover of The Fugees’ Ready or Not and Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, with gaps between the two patched up by harmonica solos. Granted, that isn’t something you hear every day. It’s quickly followed by the likes of Gibson, which tells the story – with charismatic charm – of a convict in search of gold, and a whole host of newer songs. These bring an evocative array of foot-stamping beats and cinematic chords, which leave the audience exhausted and loving it. The innovation that was lacking from the first half of the set is suddenly clear and present. Music like this just doesn’t get made that often anymore.
Playing out a curious series of final songs and encores, it begins to feel as though Hermitage Green is outstaying its welcome a little: the audience, chanting “one more song”, is instead given four or five. Though it is entertaining to watch two drummers play out a lengthy showdown between a bodhrán and a djembe, the remainder of the set proves to be a string of crowd-pleasers, including a cover of Massive Attack’s Teardrop, and a lively rendition of the band’s current single, Jenny. It’s hard to ignore the suspicion that the band are playing for as much time as they can get. When the set eventually ends, it’s to the sound of decidedly average folk-rock ballad Save Your Soul, bold and earnest, but with little more to offer that hasn’t already been heard. The lasting impression is of a band with a few good ideas, but still with much to learn about standing out from the ever growing crowd.
Photos: Erol Birsen
For further information about Hermitage Green and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Jenny here: