It was a blisteringly cold night when I rocked up at the O2 Academy in Bristol for the current headline tour from The Temperance Movement. First impressions were that they might be over-reaching, playing such a big venue. The crowd was sparse, and when the doors opened it took literally a few seconds to get inside. It turned out that the doors were opened a full hour before the support took to the stage (I would like to think that was the caring O2 team allowing people to get warm, but suspect bar takings played a bigger part), and by the time the lights went down, Thomas Wynn And The Believers took to the stage, there is a very healthy crowd ready to greet them.
This is an “old fashioned” gig of just one support and a headliner, but what a support! Opening with delicious soulful vocals from the man himself, accompanied by a laid back guitar line, “I Don’t Regret” bursts into life with the backing vocals of his sister Olivia. The harmonies are layered and complex, the guitar lyrical and emotional, and the song launches them into the blistering “You Can’t Hurt Me”. The thing that really impresses about the soulful Orlando rockers is the acoustic dynamics of their set. A song can start quietly, with just vocals and a gently tuneful guitar, and by the end, the band are producing an extraordinarily complex sound with Colin Fei’s hammond swirling around huge bass lines from Dave Wagner, harmonica from Chris Antemesarsis and drums from Ryan Miranda. It is the three way harmony between the brother, sister and guitar that really set their sound up though. “Mountain Fog” showcases this trio beautifully. Things slow down for “Heartbreak Alley” with a country vibe, and move on with “Wade Waist Deep”. We get a bit of Springsteen with “Atlantic City”, and then the sonic immensity of “Man Out Of Time”, with some huge guitars and a driving rhythm. “Burn As One” turns the rock up to maximum, and the set finishes with another wonderful example of the way in which the guys ratchet up the depth of sound throughout a song as it leads from soft drums and harmonies into a massive guitar fest. Apparently, the Floridians have won many awards back home, and it is easy to see why. Definitely a band that are on my playlist and to look out for in future.
After a short break, “The Stripper” fills the air and Phil Campbell and The Temperance Movement boys bounce energetically on stage. They open with “Caught In The Middle”, and the crowd erupt into dancing and bouncing from the off. It is clear they are proud of new album “A Deeper Cut”, as the set features pretty much every song from it! There is good reason for that though, as they are all absolute crackers. Campbell’s voice is naturally the focus of the band. Gravelly and soulful, it is a voice born to deliver their material. His style is pretty unique too. Imagine Jagger meets Cocker, and you will have some insight. Arms raised and flailing, dancing around the stage with wild abandon, and generally having a great time, it’s captivating, as is his obvious delight at having the opportunity to work the crowd. His humour is gentle and infectious, delivered in a thick accent between songs, but never keeping the music at bay for long.
The set moves through “The Way It Was and the Way It Is Now” where The Temperance Movement are joined on stage by Thomas and Olivia Wynn to delicious effect for “Love and Devotion” before the much gentler “The Wonders We’ve Seen”; an absolute beauty of a lyric, delivered with real passion and soul. We rock it up with “Be Lucky” then onto the gospel vibe of “Ain’t No Telling”, with some lovely guitar work from Paul Sayer and Matt White. Things slow down again for “Another Spiral”, and the crowd rock gently to and fro. It is on some of the quieter songs that the true quality of Campbell’s voice is demonstrated. The growl takes a back seat, and his absolute vocal class shines through. Down and dirty slide guitar is one of my favourite sounds in music, and I am smiling like a loon at “White Bear”, probably my favourite song of the whole set. The set keeps going at pace “Three Bulleits”, “Battle Lines”, and the funk of “Know for Sure” with it’s singalong hook, before Simon Lea belts out the intro to “Built-In Forgetter”
Now, at this point, something was nagging at me, but it was hard to put a finger on it. The crowd were loving what they were seeing, but I was actually finding it quite hard to focus on the stage. It hadn’t been the easiest set to photograph (monochromatic LED is horrible to shoot), but it wasn’t until this point that I realised that the lighting generally was quite disquieting and uncomfortable (later, The Temperance Movement headlined a festival in Dorset, and reports were of people having to leave, as the lighting made them feel sick!). I took myself to the back, and spent the rest of the set enjoying the sound rather than the spectacle.
“Higher Than The Sun”, “Only Friend”, and “A Deeper Cut”, another song that ranks right up there as a highlight of the set as it elicits genuine emotion (one of those songs to listen to with your eyes closed), and deserves to be listened to by a much bigger audience. It’s commercial, well crafted and meaningful, and would brighten up any mainstream radio show in the U.K. Back for an encore we get “Backwater Zoo”, The Temperance Movement closing the show with the fastest, rockiest song of the set, “Midnight Black”… and any last dregs of energy left in the crowd are ripped from them.
I don’t like leaving a review on a negative, so will get the comment in about the need for a decent lighting engineer in quickly and finish on the sheer quality of both bands. The class of Campbell’s vocals and his manic stage presence, and the fact that I listened to the whole album on my way home as I enjoyed the music so much.
The Temperance Movement are on tour until April, tour dates can be found here.
Review and images: Rob Wilkins