LIVE: Stone Broken / Idlewar / Florence Black – The Hope & Ruin, Brighton 28/11/2016

The evening kicked off with a shot to the senses from Welsh three piece Florence Black. Complete with an armload of punchy licks, and plenty of know-how to lay them down with, the band stomped through an all too quick set, attacking the stage with a real swagger. Their songs were delivered with flair, led ably by singer / guitarist Tristan Thomas, who looked very much a guitar hero in the making, soloing behind his head at one point and playing with a relaxed confidence. This flamboyance ran through the bass and drums too, harking back to a time when power trios ruled the world.

Getting straight down to business, Idlewar brought the feel of their Californian sunshine with them on this, their first UK tour, in the shape of some seriously hot grooves. Like their acclaimed debut album Impulse, the sound was down and dirty with plenty of bottom end rumble that filled out their stripped back three piece setup, and provided a weighty platform for James Blake’s immense vocal. After the catchy flow of Criminal the tempo raised for a storming Chunk Of Me before switching back to another slab of raw off-handed groove with Soul, and a chance to check out some cool bass work from Blake too – not just a great singer. Just when you thought the grooves were as big as they could possibly be, the slow grind of the latest single Glory was unleashed, drums and guitar oozing feel by the bucket load throughout. With only one EP and an album to their name many bands would struggle to fill a set with quality. Not so Idlewar. The 12 bar of Feel The Pain, from the Dig In EP, hinted at bluesier roots and allowed a little more freedom for a longer guitar solo from Rick Graham, something it would be good to see more of in other songs too. Innocent and Stone In My Heel, highlighted some inventive drumming from Pete Pagonis, bringing him into the spotlight for a while. A buzzing On Our Knees brought us to set closer Out Of My Head, rounding off an excellent first taste of a very fine band from across the pond. Hope to see them on these shores again soon.

And so to headliners Stone Broken. Despite it being a Monday night the venue was busy, and the crowd was certainly excited for the band’s appearance to the stage. They opened with the high energy chug of Stay All Night and followed it quickly with a tightly locked-in Better, the impressive lead work tasteful and precise. The guitars sounded huge and highly polished, and the choruses were equally large. It is always a sign of a good song when people sing along, and here the crowd were in fine voice from the off. Charismatic drummer Robyn Haycock projected her energy constantly and took centre stage for a well received drum solo between Save Tomorrow and Let Me Go. The band decided to road test a couple of new songs called Other Side Of Me and Just a Memory, both sounding good for album number two. Between the two new songs was a heartfelt Wait For You which saw the crowd singing reach a new peak. Rousing versions of This Life and Fall Back Down closed the set proper to much cheering for more. A rocked up version of Larger Than Life by Backstreet Boys raised smiles all around, and a few fists to the air. Singer / guitarist Rich Moss had spent the entire set charming the crowd with his easy personality, and he used it one last time to get the crowd singing the yeahs in Not My Enemy to finish the show.