Friends together, gig forever. Warm Guinness thrown down needy throats in a sweat-clad venue that may have the capacity but does not have the facilities to host Black Country, New Road, is a firmly horrid mixture. But that is the way it works for the up-and-comers of the indie market. Not yet Boiler Shop ready, too big for The Cluny. Yard Act and Bob Vylan suffered the same way but made good on the tightness of their sets with the clusters of dehydrated, jumped-up attendees in their respective shows. Black Country, New Road, for all the important intricacies and details of Live at Bush Hall, do not quite repeat the masterful feat they released earlier this year.
Whether that is the venue, the acoustics of the Student Union not quite as handy for flautists and saxophonists, or the band itself, is up for debate. It goes by in a blur. A quick tease of some new material toward the start of the set and a rampant frolic through the Live at Bush Hall catalogue before it is time to say farewell and wander out of the venue, Thin Lizzy reverberating in the background. Sandwiched between Up Song, to begin and play out the show comes, on paper, a tightly wound show that expresses the next steps of a band without their original singer. Black Country, New Road have adapted to that well, as evidenced by their Live at Bush Hall work, but there is still much to be done for their stage presence.
New track 24/7 365 British Summer Time falls into place as expected and nicely so. The Boy precedes it and a memorable flow for I Won’t Always Love You follows their new song. Hopeful collections of crashing, broad beauty are the highlight for Black Country, New Road, and they are seemingly unable to fail in that capacity. Yet some tracks sounded sharper, more in touch, than others. Not because of the playing or the line-up but because of the mixing. Clear and crisp vocals on one track, subverted and mucky noise the next. Even then it is clear to hear what song is on, although the muffling and reverb, echoing out into a packed venue, makes for an indecipherable time. Black Country, New Road are still the hot property they were back when first appearing in 2018. It is not a question of how long they can maintain that momentum, but where it can take them.
Hopefully, to a bigger stage. They need the space to refine their big band appeal and the flow of saxophones, keyboards and violins whining and crying away to one another. It is in projecting that where the Student Union does not quite have the stage space for so many musicians. Still, Black Country, New Road work with the space they have and provides a nice enough evening. It was not the barnstorming riot of ascension-ready masterclasses as expected, but they already did that on Live at Bush Hall. To repeat that feat just a month or two later would be desperately mean to demand. The Boys Are Back In Town plays Black Country, New Road out, and while they may return to Newcastle for another showcase of their classy appeal, they do so in difficult circumstances.