Empyre - Ivory Blacks, Glasgow 2018

Review by Gavin Ross

 

It's always a hard gig as the support act when the crowd are at a gig to see the main band of the evening. Empyre managed to more than acquit themselves and win over a crowd who, in reality, were already on their side before they even took to the stage.

 

Having been previously described by the well know ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris as being “The Best” it was with some anticipation from the crowd that Empyre took to the stage in Glasgow to play their all too short set.

 

This four piece band from the West Midlands opened their set with ‘Drive’ which immediately lets those of us in the crowd know that we were in for a treat of slow and atmospheric rock music that is intelligently written and played.

 

The track is soulful in nature with, at times, a southern sounding style which gnaws away at you, refusing to allow you do anything other than like it.

 

Guitarist Did Coles, lets loose on his Stratocaster with amazingly deep riffs which instantly hook you into the music and is complimented by bassist Grant Hockley who has the amazing laid back style of the most classic of bass players and Jack Bowles on drums.

 

Bowles style echoes that of Hockley with its laid back feel though the skills he has as a drummer are clearly evident.

 

Vocal duties for the evening, provided as ever by Henrik Steenholdt, are as solid as they come and he plays a mean guitar to add to the amazing sound this band has.

 

With Coles swapping his Stratocaster for a Telecaster, the band continue with ‘Too Little Too Late’ with Steenholdt at the front of the stage, minus his guitar, to establish his vocal style, and that of the band, further on the appreciative crowd.

 

‘Just A Ride’ provides thoughtful lyrics, starting off slowly with the most beautiful sound, this track is one of the stand outs of the set for me. The track progresses to a faster pace as it reaches its conclusion with superb, and seemingly effortless, guitar skills during the solo.

 

By the time the band play ‘Only Way Out’ the crowd seem mesmerised by what they are watching and listening to. Another beautifully slow track with a slow beginning with a wonderfully melodic extended guitar solo before the vocals come in, this track really showcases the ability of all the musicians in this band.

 

The melodic solo of earlier returns and takes over and I genuinely felt myself taken in to the music by the hook, line and sinker.

 

The absolute stand out of the set follows a couple of tracks later with a superb rendition of the track ‘Something Remains’. Described by the band as being based on the reflection of life without the ability to clearly distinguish any given day from another, I felt that the message in the lyrics came across strongly and the crowd seemed to agree.

 

The final track of the evening ‘New Republic’ returned us to that southern sounding rock and blues based feeling, but with a faster pace, and provided a real rousing end to the evening with some amazing bass and drum beats from Hockley and Bowles respectively. With both Steenholdt and Coles on guitars the sound from this band reached its peak and the crowd clearly wanted more as the last notes of the guitar solo brought the set to a close.

 

The simplest way to explain how good this band are is to go and see them play - they will completely win you over with their style and musical ability.

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