Morganway / Jack Francis / Lilo

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Morganway / Jack Francis / Lilo - God's House Tower, Southampton (UK) - 29 February 2020

I had been looking forward to this gig having already seen Morganway once for my previous live review back in October. They were the support act for CC Smugglers that night and as such only played a shortish set, but they were the headliners this evening. Having already heard some raving reviews for earlier nights on the tour, I also decided to approach this review a little differently to normal by writing it up from the perspective of someone simply watching and enjoying the show rather than my usual viewpoint of a reviewer scribbling notes for much of the performance. It is always a nice touch to run into one of the band members as you arrive and I did so this evening with Callum Morgan who stopped for a quick chat before we headed in for the opening act.

First on this evening was an acoustic Folk-based female due from Winchester called Lilo who have been together for five years since they met at school. They performed for about half an hour and showed some great potential, although it was certainly the most sedate opening I can ever remember for a gig. In terms of a comparison the first one that came to mind was a female Simon & Garfunkel. I didn't catch many of the song titles, but I am pretty sure one offering was their single 'Lighthouse' as they mentioned problems with it being posted on Spotify under the wrong artist. I thoroughly enjoyed their spot and found them a delightful duo, albeit even between songs I was hesitant to open my beer as it was very quiet and serene (more in terms of atmosphere as opposed to volume). If I can offer one small suggestion it would be for them to show a little more confidence with regard to their audience interaction and persona on stage as they certainly have some musical ability.

Next up on the bill was Southampton-based solo musician Jack Francis, who also performed acoustically with a blend of Folk and Americana. He has gone from small local shows to performing at the likes of the Isle Of Wight Festival and Stone Free, whilst also attracting the attention of BBC Radio. The first artist that came to mind sound-wise was Ralph McTell. He dotted his set with the odd moment of humour, while his music was beautifully played and sung. Having moved right near the front at this point, I found myself leaning against the pillar as I closed my eyes and took in the local man's tunes. This somewhat relaxed and chilled set also got a nice response from the crowd and I must add that it was great to see Callum Morgan helping Francis out by dealing with the sound levels during his set.

I tend to try and keep personal stuff out of writing/reviewing, but with the opening two acts reminding me of two of my Mum's favourite artists, I suddenly had the memory of playing Morganway to her and the band being the last act before she passed away that she truly rated from what new albums I had played her. I decided to tell Callum this during the break and it was something I could see he genuinely appreciated.

It was then time for the headliners. They had a semi-acoustic set-up on the stage with no drums (instead there was a drum box/Cajón for Edward Bullinger), but there were keyboards and an electric guitar. They kicked off with 'Devil's Canyon' and Callum Morgan quickly gestured that the crowd (who were half seated and half stood behind) should come forward and make use of the space in front which they (including myself) duly did. Things quickly kicked up a notch with 'My Love Ain't Gonna Save You' which is a personal favourite and the crowd were happily singing along. Following 'The Man' there was an outing for another track I adore in 'Let Me Go', which I don't mind admitting had me bellowing along. It was great to be so close to a group as they performed as you could see and hear all the special little things they do, and I have to say they all looked like they were having a ball. There were both a good clarity and separation to the sound, and SJ Mortimer was on stellar form as seems to be the norm from what I have seen and heard. They slotted in a rather fine rendition of Dolly Parton's 'Jolene' and it went down a treat as well as offering violin player Nicole Terry the chance to have some real fun. I was then very touched when Callum Morgan touchingly devoted the performance of a new song 'Across This Land' to my Mum. It's little gestures such as that which make all the difference to people.

The pace slowed down for 'Frozen' and some of Mortimer's singing left goosebumps all over... and then the time had arrived to really kick everything up several notches. The main set ended with what are probably my two favourite Morganway tracks at the present time – 'Hurricane' and 'London Life'. The former gave Mortimer the opportunity to really show her range by belting it out one minute and going hushed soon after, whereas Kieran Morgan fired out some fine lead guitar whilst Terry, keyboardist Matthew Brocklehurst and drummer Bullinger backed them up. They closed out the main set with the truly stonking Country jig 'London Life' and I don't mind admitting I was in the middle of the dancefloor doing the do-si-do with everyone else. Considering the very polite, relaxed and calm way the night started, it had turned in to pretty much a party by this point; Terry's playing really makes this song something quite special, and it really is a "right ol' knees-up" and no mistake. Just to hammer that point home, the band finished the whole night off by coming down on the main floor to perform their last number 'In A Dream (Coming Home)' and it really was a fabulous way to get the crowd going in a nice, personal and intimate way. I know the band will unlikely be able to continue doing that sort of thing in the long term as their fan base grows, but I am glad I have had the chance to see them do it and join in.

Once the show had finished, the entire band hung around to talk to fans and those who had attended (myself included), and once again it is little things like that, along with their immense talent and ability, that truly marks Morganway out. I make no secret of how much I love/rate Morganway and I am so glad I attended this show. The opening two acts were enjoyable and Morganway then followed them up with a belter of a performance. If you have yet to see or hear them for yourself, then what are you waiting for. I know a number of our writers are now on board the Morganway train and I urge everyone else to join us. I said they had the potential to be something very special... and I have yet to see or hear anything to change my mind... the Morganway 'Hurricane' is really starting to whip up a storm!

Dave Scott

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