The Heavy North are a six-piece blues-rock outfit from Liverpool, established in 2018.
Having managed to record an episode for The Feeling Sound Podcast with the band shortly before they set off on their UK “Electric Soul Machine” Tour, I felt it only right and proper to be there as it drew to a conclusion, with their biggest show to date at the Arts Club Theatre, Liverpool on Saturday 24th September 2022.
With the wonderfully dipped in soul vocal talents of Lead Singer, Kenny Stuart, and their authentic early 1970’s Southern Rock sound, the band have been making people sit up and listen for a while now in the Northwest. They’ve been quietly getting on with it all by themselves, not waiting around or relying on any traditional music industry model to shape their destiny. This independence has not only given them real drive, but it’s also made the band agile enough to form close bonds with a solid fanbase by allowing them to take every opportunity to play live, all the while engaging consistently across a wide variety of social media platforms, throughout lockdown and beyond.
As I said, this tour is the band’s chance to take their long-awaited debut album ‘Electric Soul Machine’ on the road. And boy, was it worth the wait.
The show was sold out a while ago, and there was a real sense of anticipation in the audience, as the technicians did their final line ups and level checks. Just after eight thirty, out they strode, drinks and guitars in hand. Alongside Kenny, the remaining line up consisted of Jose Ibanez (Lead Guitar & Producer), Andrew Horrocks (Bass), Ste Penn (Keyboards), Mark Rice (Drums) and Jack Birch (Rhythm Guitar).
Smoke billowed out, the lights went purple, and off we went as the band launched into “Bring Me Love. “ There was a slightly delayed reaction from the watching crowd, almost as if they were somehow subdued with admiration for this incredibly soulful opening track. Three tracks in, and Kenny’s vocals were still sounding silky smooth, despite a solid week on the road and playing live every night. This time together has obviously benefited the whole band, as they sound perfectly in sync and so tight musically. It’s Southern Rock but belted out with pure Northern heart and soul. The sound of those four guitars combined, is big indeed. There were some sublime solos from Jose Ibanez. Mark’s drumming also deserves special mention too, showcasing both heavenly little accents and fills, whilst effortlessly giving way to a signature ‘heavy’ sound on some of the livelier songs. As Ste’s keyboards lead us into “Frida”, the crowd aren’t holding back anymore. Witnessing the band’s unbridled joy being broadcast out from on stage, made me break out into a smile myself.
There was a distinct feel of Dave Gilmour in air for the next ten minutes or so, as we worked our way through the Heavy North’s “Don’t Wait for Me” and segued beautifully into an awesome cover version of Pink Floyd’s “Breathe (in The Air).” It literally took my breath away.
At this point in the evening, the six piece became a twelve piece, as they were joined on stage by the Electric Soul Machine Band (basically the strings and horns section who had worked on the album). The line-up was made complete with the addition of two incredibly talented female backing vocalists. This took the performance to another level. It was like a gear change into overdrive, as one bluesy, soulful, rocking track followed another. Hand’s went up and stayed up, at least until the last few bars of the awesome tune “Satisfy You” faded out. Three more tracks saw us heading straight back to the Deep South once again … “Better Change”, “To The Wind I Go” and finally “Falling Down on Me” took us through to the last song of a superb night.
What a fitting finale too, “As Long As You’re Here With Me” driving the audience into a sea of swaying arms held aloft once again. Continuous applause greeted the band from the end of the performance, until the final curtain bow. It was well earned and richly deserved. I am so glad that I was there to share this night with them.
For me, the most fitting summary of the night was overheard as we all made our way outside,
“Well, you’re never going to see them for £12.50 ever again now, are you?”
Go and see them if you get a chance.
Whatever the price, it’ll be worth it.
Mark Reeson is host of The Feeling Sound Podcast.
Listen to the Heavy North on the latest Podcast