Review: Pearl And The Beard – London

One of our top contributors Jon Barker is good friends with the band you see above you….

Those three jumper-clad people are more regularly referred to as Pearl And The Beard…a fine export from the city of New York, who recently graced our isles with their presence, in order to play a number of superb shows

Jon was fortunate enough to make a number of these gigs, having known the trio for several years after first seeing and meeting them on his travels across the US. And for your reading pleasure, he has put together a number of short live reviews of Pearl And The Beard’s first time playing in London town….

To my great pleasure, Pearl and the Beard toured the UK for the first time last week, starting at The Barfly and ending at The Lexington, with a show at St Pancras Old Church, a show in Manchester at The Castle and a secret show at Kal Lavelle’s folk night “W.E. Love Sundays”. Plenty of opportunities to bring friends along, and convince new faces that they are deserving of all the glowing glory I give.

The Barfly

Essentially the Barfly in Camden is a dive bar with very loud speakers and a sound desk that never quite mixes right in all the years I’ve been there. The acoustics aren’t the easiest to win over, and the drinks are mid-priced. Opening for Jukebox the Ghost, the majority of the crowd were fans who’d either seen them on their 2009 tour with Nightmare of You, or had come across one of their songs in the last two years through TV show cameos and word of mouth. Not many I spoke to were there for Pearl and The Beard, which is why it was even more refreshing to see such a positive response from the get go. Leaping into energetic songs from their second album Killing The Darlings, the crowd clapped, swayed, danced and generally got in my way throughout the set, applauding loudly, bantering freely and in most cases listening. The set list was a more energetic burst, with songs like Oh! Death, Hot Volcano and Douglas Douglass belted out, engaging. I loved the crowd response, but I think the sound really didn’t showcase just how good they really are, which is why I was glad that the next show was at St Pancras Old Church.

St Pancras Old Church

The first thing you noticed about this gig was that it would be more formal. Chairs were laid out, people were making polite conversation and sipping on plastic cups of wine or a beer, conversation was in low voices because the acoustics could carry a voice effortlessly, and the beautiful building seemed to daunt those who didn’t have cameras from sitting in the front rows. A surprise start to the set saw Jocelyn, Jeremy and Emily come down the two sides and the middle of the church clapping and stomping along to Douglas Douglass, throwing their energy and projecting their voices into a great wake up call for anyone who might’ve thought this would be a quiet one. The sound was infinitely better here, just the building’s design lent for great sound without being plugged in. We had a much longer set (an hour and ten minutes worth), and a real chance to show their diversity some more, with debuting two songs – James and Devil’s Head Down. Performing quite a few unplugged in the crowd, including a cover of Sarah Siskind and Bon Iver’s  Lovin’s For Fools and a Lady Lamb and the Bee Keeper song, this really showed their powerful voices at their full potential. Some of the high notes they can reach, the effortless way in which they harmonise, the sheer vibrant character, glowing in their eyes and their broad smiles and the way they capture every eye, take in every second of their audience’s joy and reciprocate.

W.E. Love Sundays

I’d invited Pearl and The Beard to a weekly Sunday event held at The World’s End, Finsbury Park, which is ran by a musician I know and love called Kal Lavelle (she’s been touring with Ed Sheeran, had a great song with Artful Dodger, generally makes hearts melt with her voice and her top 5 EP Shivers), as a bit of a last minute thing. I told them it was a free event but they might sell merch, would get a chance to try yorkshire puddings and be in a friendly atmosphere similar to the ones I love so much from New York. The fine fellows took up my offer and opened the night to an especially packed pub of people, again with Douglas Douglass, and again winning everyone over from their opening few notes. With Novas Basement also on the bill, cello lovers were being spoilt, people who were after three part harmonies didn’t know what to do and most didn’t know how anyone could follow their set. They stayed behind talking to musicians and fans alike, filling up more pages of their mailing list and solidifying a reason to return for another tour. Leading in to their last night of tour here – at The Lexington.

The Lexington

Now I didn’t stay for Amy Leverre after Pearl and the Beard had played – perhaps I should’ve, but I had a busy evening already planned and places to be. I met the band upstairs soundchecking and being filmed by 1TakeTV for the Devil’s Head Down video, along with NOT Productions, who were planning to get a similar video of Douglas Douglass (later filmed in a fun and silly location), where they were singing alternate versions of Hot Volcano to warm up their voices. Emily had managed to lose her voice somewhat and had warned us that it might be evident (it wasn’t), as they tackled their set from high up on stage. Towards the last two songs, not content with those who stood closest to the stage, the wandering minstrels bounded around the bar up, around and back, bringing everyone together.

It was a moving set of shows. The second the songs begin I am taken away to another world. I feel like I can’t be stressed whilst their words reach my ears, I can be moved but never in a bad way, and all I can do is smile. I emplore anyone who knows of a show in their town to go out of their way to attend. The very nature of it, their own commited levels to entertain and make beautiful music is second to none, and it’s only a short time before people like Bon Iver or Mumford and Sons take note and bring them on tour. I have that inkling. One to watch if you like anything good about the folk scene, love songs, popular music, layered vocals, cello or heartfelt joy and happiness.

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