When Black Country, New Road announced the departure of lead singer Isaac Wood, they also claimed they would no longer perform the tracks they made with him. Live at Bush Hall shows not only that the band are maintaining that new beginning but are thriving through it. Daunting the beginnings of a new era for any band may be, Black Country, New Road have, somehow, maintained what listeners love about them, all the while charting new experiences. Delicate opening flourishes on the saxophone-driven Up Song do just that, upbeat populism with articulate and innovative instrumental crashes. Live at Bush Hall should not be a surprise for those best acquainted with the quality this band often bring, yet it still is. Friends forever, and exciting as ever.
Departure is on the lips of Live at Bush Hall, the spreading wings of The Boy an articulate interpretation of needing to move on. Focusing their heartfelt tears and courageous new sound, Live at Bush Hall showcases the shimmering folk-like nature of The Boy and the hopefully Wallace and Gromit-inspired The Wrong Trousers. It is cracking, as the man himself would say. Beyond the potential novelty of a brutal track are the consistent realism present in Black Country, New Road, despite their ascension into the surreal at times. I Won’t Always Love You is a stark and raw piece that relies on underlying string and brass accompaniments that really lend themselves to the live setting. Barely audible coughs from the gallery, applause breaking the end of a track, it all has a very operatic feel to it, as though a performance of Don Giovanni were electrified and shaken to its core.
Twee articulations have given Black Country, New Road a breath of fresh-yet-similar air. Loss and thundering reflection charge Laughing Song as a track with anything but joy to it. Constant instrumentals that could stand on their own support this slate of nine tracks and bring about some of the best tracks the band have ever released. May Kershaw in particular, her push to the forefront as a lead vocalist, is a stunning change. Unreleased materials prove to be their best pieces. Here they are, though. Released. It is a particularly bold move to make up an entire live set of new tracks, but it was also necessary for the band to do so. It pays off, ultimately, with a moving collection of Bush Hall-recorded tracks.
Black Country, New Road does not rest on the merit of one person though and the shift in tone, the engagement with that similar, high bar of quality, is no surprise at all. Live at Bush Hall is a shimmering, wonderful example of where the band are headed. Admirable work all around, from a collective that notes the need to share the experience of vocal duties and to build that into their work. The Waeve touched on that in a duo scenario with their self-titled debut. Black Country, New Road do too, and act on the grieving and healing process inevitable to having a band member move on. Three new vocalists, with Tyler Hyde and Lewis Evans also stepping up to the plate, give Black Country, New Road a slate of new potential. Share the burden, friends forever.