Black Country, New Road at Southbank Centre Online
Fresh from the release of their debut album, For the First Time (on independent titan Ninja Tune), Black Country, New Road gave a thrilling performance of angular melodies and growled poetics. The seven-piece have enjoyed a burgeoning following, alongside their partners in noise Black Midi, and have been dubbed one of the UK’s most exciting live acts. Streaming from the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, the show was a potent reminder of the dormant forces itching to be unleashed on stage.
A mix of self-taught and conservatoire-trained talent, for BCNR “genre” is merely a four-letter word. They open with Mark’s Theme, a dulcet blend of saxophone and piano, then tear into a thunderous rendition of Instrumental, driven by the blistering pace of drummer Charlie Wayne.
As they segue into Athen’s France (the debut track that really began to turn heads in 2019), lead singer Isaac Wood’s evocative voice and sprawling lyricism, heavy with cultural references and millennial sardonicism, is on full display. His eclectic writing is disarmingly vulnerable, taking aim at the slow violence of a decaying England, without being serious: “References, references, references,” he knowingly croons on Science Fair. The accompanying AV show, projected around the hall and featuring a slideshow of fish, school buses, motorways and everything in between, captures the irreverence of BCNR, all part of the group’s disparate yet potent creative identity.
However, it is really the orchestral might of the band that sets them apart, from the furious three-way breakdown of Lewis Evans’s sax, Woods’s guitar and Georgia Ellery on violin in the crescendoing Science Fair to the pounding close of Sunglasses. They hold off for the more sensitive Track X, the closest thing in their oeuvre to a love song, before leaning full-tilt into Opus. The classical tonalities, awash with strobing light, feel like a village fete spiked with speed – a classic BCNR upheaval of tradition bodied by frenetic energy.
Closing with a slew of unreleased tracks, including the tender Bread Song and Basketball Shoes, the performance was clear testament to the group’s ever-growing acclaim. With sonic dexterity and originality, Black Country, New Road represent an ambitious corner of the UK’s new music scene that’s ready to burst back into the world.
For further information and future events visit Black Country, New Road’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Opus here: