Saturday, 26 March 2016

Purson - Plymouth Review

Despite a few friends of mine banging on about Purson since their 2013 debut album, The Circle and the Blue Door, was released, it took me quite a while to actually give them a listen. There is so much good music around these days, that it is impossible to keep up with everything. It is hard enough to keep up with the new albums from bands I am already a fan of! I am not sure exactly what made me finally take the plunge with Purson, but seeing that they had included a Plymouth date as part of their latest UK tour must have been a factor. While Plymouth is always gradually improving as a city to see live music, it is nowhere near as good as other places. Despite only having lived in Plymouth itself for a matter of months, I have been going to gigs in Plymouth from Cornwall for quite a few years. Before Purson's gig there however, I had never been to see live music at The Junction on Mutley Plain. I live within 10 minutes walk from the venue now however, so the convenience made this gig even more appealing. I did not realise just how small the venue is however. It is basically just a pub, but the stage area and sound was surprisingly good for a venue of this size. Being fairly new to the band, I am not sure how big Purson are, but there was a decent-sized crowd in attendance by the time the band hit the stage. There was a good atmosphere created throughout the evening too.

Before Purson played, there were two support bands - although neither played for very long. First up were Cybernetic Witch Cult, from Cornwall, who played a handful of songs that fused classic 1970s rock with doom to create an atmospheric sound that sounded much bigger than the simple guitar/bass/drums combination that was onstage. The band used the bass guitar to good effect, often as a lead instrument, as the guitar laid down some heavy riffs. There was obviously a lot of early Black Sabbath about their sound, and the sludgy riffs and howling vocals really added to that vibe. There also projected clips from various films on the wall behind the stage, and used the dialogue from these clips to enhance or introduce their songs. That worked really well, and added another dimension to their live show. Their set was only short, but I enjoyed what I heard.

White Room followed and their rather dreary psychedelic rock failed to grab me after the previous band's heavy riffs left a decent impression. The five-piece rock band had an interesting sound, which initially sounded promising, but each song rolled into the next without a great deal of variation. The swirling guitars lacked any real melodies, and the vocals never really stood out. Again, they had quite a retro sound, and the keyboards they used during some songs helped to liven things up but, for me, their set never really came to life.

Purson were the band everyone was here to see however, and from the first song Rosalie Cunningham (vocals/guitar/kazoo) and band had the whole crowd eating out of the palms of their hands. The area in front of the stage was packed with fans, and the raised bit by the bar also had quite a few people stood watching. This is the tour in support of the band's second album Desire's Magic Theatre and, although the album is not out until next month, a fair chunk of it was played in Plymouth. Opening with the dramatic title track and the sparkling The Window Cleaner, the band got of to a great start. Cunningham said throughout that the band were having trouble with their on-stage sound, but what the audience could hear sounded great! A few older numbers were played next, with the dark Rocking Horse and the extremely catchy Spiderwood Farm being early highlights. Cunningham plays the majority of the band's guitar solos as well as singing, but George Hudson (guitar/vocals) also contributed atmospheric leads; with the two often playing in tandem. Samuel Robinson's keyboards were just the right level in the mix, and really added to the band's late 1960s, early 1970s sound. While being a retro band in sound and appearance, nothing about Purson feels like a throwback. The band sound fresh and exciting, and shows that bands can be retro without being pastiche. Of the new material, the hard rocking Electric Landlady (an obviously Jimi Hendrix tribute, both in name and sound) stood out with a powerful chorus and a great riff, as did the playful Mr. Howard. The set came to and end with the semi-acoustic rock of Tragic Catastrophe that is packed full of beautiful melodies. The layout of the venue makes it hard for bands to leave the stage, and easily return for an encore, so the band played a lengthy version of Wanted Man straight after instead of leaving and coming back. The jam elements of the song are expanded live, with lots of atmospheric soloing. The setlist was:

Desire's Magic Theatre
The Window Cleaner
Danse Macabre
Rocking Horse
Spiderwood Farm
Leaning on a Bear
Electric Landlady
Dead Dodo Down
Well Spoiled Machine
Mr. Howard
The Sky Parade
Tragic Catastrophe
Wanted Man

Overall, Purson really delivered and their powerful set makes me look forward to their set at the Cambridge Rock Festival in August even more. I bought a copy of the EP In the Meantime at the show too, and it was signed (along with my copy of The Circle and the Blue Door) by the majority of the band after the show, which was nice!

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