Gig Review: Silent Natives: Sofar Sounds at The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust

‘With engaging, crowd-pleasing musicality, Silent Natives hit all the right notes’

Gig Review:
I’ve tried many times to see Silent Natives live since reviewing their debut EP, Loosen Your Grip last year. And there have certainly been enough chances. However, after missing out on their performance at Sofar Sounds Colchester in January and festival appearances at Fat Tuesday, Alive & V-Dubbin and Greystock to name just three, the opportunity to hear this trio (fronted by Steve Jones) at Sofar Sounds London (28th September) was too good to turn down.

Chatting with the guys beforehand, Steve mentioned that they had prepared for a semi-acoustic set. However, with the offer of using a PA, wired in for a sound that headed more towards that of the EP. Given that the set would be centred around this release, it was a great way of showcasing its sound. Truth be told, even if you were there you wouldn’t have known about this change as before we even heard a note, they seemed right at home .

Providing the opening set of the evening, Steve took to the mic, introduced the trio and told the audience just how much they were buzzing about getting a slot at a London based Sofar evening. It was clear from how he spoke that this wasn’t just a case of being polite. It was genuine and quickly this enthusiasm transferred into the performance itself.

Leading with the closing track of the EP, Dead Man, a sense of relaxed assertiveness filled the air and the musical proceedings began. Almost instantly the atmosphere switched and audience fell aptly silent. Other than the music, it was deadly quiet and with everyone engaged, my focus shifted to the engagement between Silent Natives themselves. It has to be said that you don’t always get the full effect on a recording, but the communication between each of them proved their professionalism. Equally, with the track bringing textural change, via the inclusion of rhythmic hand claps – which, in a real moment of musical togetherness saw everyone innately continue – the response could be likened to that of seasoned pros.

Showing clear appreciation for the added percussive elements the audience had just provided, the initial buzz had become even more evident. Building on this, Steve gave us the context to the second track of their set, and having explained his inspiration behind ‘On the Run’ – that of Papillon by Henri Charrière – beautifully segued into the opening combination of acoustic guitar and exposed vocal. Reaching its gentle climax through selective use of electric double bass (Rich Jones) and brushed kit (Chris Kemsley), Silent Natives had already shown scope within their existing musicality. Therefore, it was only right to give us a taster of what is on the horizon.

Having fully hit their stride – both in terms of performance and rapport – the trio decided it was time for the audience to play their part once more. It was no easy clapping rhythm this time though. This was a whole vocal section! With Rich helpfully reassuring us that there was ‘quite a lot of singing in it,’ Steve demonstrated the required extended riff. As it turned out, we were clearly quite a  musical bunch as after only a couple of goes, this effortless ear worm was ingrained in our heads! Giving a real sense of what we can expect from forthcoming tracks, Alive, with its modulating chords and developing lyricism gave the perfect balance of light and shade. Even if you didn’t know their music before that night, you could tell that this was a step-up and, like before, the audience were very much on side.

Directing the set toward its conclusion – and in an effort to not give too much away – the trio returned to their EP with the title track, Loosen Your Grip. Full of impact, musical contrasts and sliding bass lines, it was just as engaging, if not more so than everything that had come before. However, while it was clear that they had ‘hit the right chords’ with both the audience and the other artists, it was only after their closing track, Sunlight, that Silent Natives fully realised it for themselves.

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Find out more about Silent Natives at: EP Review: Silent Natives: Loosen Your Grip

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