Wednesday, 26 June 2019
MUSIC REVIEW: Mt. Joy - The Bush Hall, London.
Even before the doors opened at Bush Hall there was undeniable anticipation for Mt. Joy as fans lined the humid streets of West London’s Shepherds Bush to witness this upcoming 5-piece who reside in LA via their origin of Philadelphia. Already achieving growing success stateside, this is their only London (& UK) date before they play Sweden’s Lollapalooza Festival this weekend and cross back to the US for more tour dates later in the summer.
Bush Hall’s intimate space is renowned for upcoming US acts. It dates back to 1904 with a beautifully restored ornate interior. With a 425-crowd capacity, it felt almost full by the time Mt. Joy made their presence. London-based band Swimming Tapes supported them who warmed the crowd but lead vocals often sounded technically drowned (no pun intended) by their own instruments which was a distraction to what otherwise would have been a solid performance.
Thankfully, the main act had no such issues vocally and lead singer Matt Quinn’s voice is so engagingly raw that he delivers lyrics with such strength and delicacy, often in quick succession, which captivated this young London audience to euphoria at times throughout the night. His vocals are comparable to more established front men such as Caleb Followill (Kings of Leon) and Wesley Schultz (The Lumineers). He has a great stage presence that is confident yet grounded and relatable in delivery.
As impressive as Quinn was tonight, this was a true band effort. Mt Joy are clearly comfortable in experimenting with their sound, which allows each of them to have their moment. Take the talented keyboardist Jackie Miclau for example who adds a welcome unpredictability at times to their overall staple sound. She effortlessly, mid-way through fan-favorite ‘Julia’ transitioned with a crowd-pleasing solo interlude which went into the classic cover of Bill Withers ‘Aint No Sunshine When She’s Gone’ where Quinn resumed vocals before emphatically going back into ‘Julia’ that had the crowd geared up in delight. Miclau was often beaming throughout the night, as was lead guitarist Sam Cooper who both seemed genuinely overwhelmed at times by the crowd’s energy and engagement.
In fact, the night was made up of many crowd-pleasers as Mt. Joy had the audience rapturous throughout almost every song. Highlights of the evening, ‘Astroman’ their breakout single is likely to remain a classic sing-a-long for the long term, whilst 'Sheep' was sung with conviction, which underpins the songs political undercurrent with heartfelt authenticity. Prior to the song, Quinn makes reference to both the US' and UK’s current strange political situations, which feels like easy bate to get a crowd's affirming reaction.
The band finished with 'Silver Linings', arguably their most accomplished and commercial song to date and certainly one that left the crowd screaming for an encore. It was at this point that I came to realise this band had outgrown this venue by the end of the set. This is a band that goes effortlessly between tender moments, to the often psychedelic but inevitably leads to the large-scale anthemic crowd pleasers that you get the impression could fill larger venues, even stadiums with ease.
As the band came on for their much audience-fuelled encore they performed new material of which Quinn declared it was a “bad time to take a risk” after a successful night but he needn’t have worried. As the rest of the band watched from the side Quinn performed an acoustic solo where for once the crowd were completely quiet as they absorbed in awe this raw moment, which was a stark contrast to the song they witnessed moments before. As the rest of the band descended onto stage Miclau brought in a funky, souful piece that changed the direction of the song completely which is an exciting inclination as to what’s to come from this band.
The night ended with ‘Cardinal’ which starts with Quinn whistling a simple melody before the band turning it into a much bolder finish, it was also perhaps the clearest indication of just how successful and triumphant this evening was for the band. As the audience spilled out into the cooler London air sections of the crowd continued the whistling the same song Quinn started all the way to the local tube station, a true testament to the infectious songs they can and will go on to produce.
Mt. Joy consists of members Matt Quinn, Sam Cooper, Michael Byrnes, Sotiris Eliopoulos and Jackie Miclau. Their self-titled album is out now on all good streaming services.
Reviewer - Matt Wolstenholme
on - 25/6/19