Black Country, New Road – Live in Vancouver
Black Country, New Road are named after a road in England which they had never driven on, had never seen and had never even heard of before they performed a random Wikepdia search. This is about as random as you can get for a band name, but it’s also kinda cool. Five years on and three albums later, they finally embark on their first headlining tour of North America.
The English six piece are from Cambridge. For those that don’t know, Cambridge has a fierce rivalry with Oxford caused by the similar prestige and snobbery of the Universities in the two cities. Musically, Oxford has come out on top for several decades, with Ride, Radiohead, Foals and Supergrass, easily beating Cambridge’s Katrina and the Waves. However, Oxford is now having to look over its shoulder with the quality of work Black Country, New Road have so far released.
The show is at the intimate Hollywood Theatre. It is a sell out. It is busy. The venue used to be a moviehouse, and the ups and downs that have followed this young band could inspire a film. Originally called Nervous Condition, they broke up following allegations against the singer. They broke up, then they reformed as Black Country, New Road with Issac Wood taking over as singer. Two widely celebrated albums later and on the verge of their first North American tour, Wood left the band due to health issues in January 2022. The tour was cancelled and the band decided they wouldn’t play earlier material out of respect for Wood. Thus, their 2022 and 2023 tours included all new material. For this tour there are warnings on the ads about the tour saying songs from the first two albums will not feature at these concerts. The material does not disappoint and the near sold out North American tour shows that people are still interested in this band, even after losing such a key figure.
Vancouver is the first stop of this 21 show tour. The band start with the lively Up Song, lyrics ‘Look at what we did together’, fits perfectly with their recent history and struggles. It is clear that they miss Wood, the lyrics point to him on numerous songs and the haunting voice of Tyler Hyde is poignant, but without a depressing or dark feel, and the concert feels more celebratory than anything else. Their blend of art rock has the Vancouver crowd enthused from start to finish, with huge roars and applause after each song. They merge an emotional intensity with a kind of playfulness. Hearing the beautiful love song, Across The Pond, being sung for the first time across the pond is nice, with its snippets of Divine Comedy sounding vocals. They finish with Up Song Reprise and why not. Black Country, New Road are unlike any other band I have encountered, that being said people do like a comparison, so I’ll indulge you by admitting there were moments that reminded me of Arcade Fire and the refusal to play any songs that featured their previous singer feels a little like Joy Division/New Order after Ian Curtis passed away, like those bands they also deserve to have a greatly successful career.
Words by Martin Alldred
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