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'London, The Borderline, 22nd Sept 2017'   

-  Genre: 'Alt/Country'

Our Rating:
Well this was kind of unexpected as reunion tours go. If you'd asked me the last time I saw Summerhill play if I thought I'd go and see them play a reunion tour in 30 years' time I think I would have fallen about laughing at the possibility and yet somehow here we are. It's time for me to see one of the regular support bands of the late 80's playing as headliners for the first time.

I do remember seeing them three or four times first time round either as Summerhill or in their previous incarnation, Snakes Of Shake. Apart from that band's Southern Cross, I would have been hard pushed to have named any songs until they sort of found me on Facebook. So, to celebrate the reissue of the band's album Lowdown as an expanded 2CD edition called Return To Lowdown they have played a short UK tour and this show brought it to a conclusion.

I arrived early enough to see the last 3 songs from Band Of Hope's set. They came on stupidly early, well before 8pm as late night London in a club that's open till 4am must have all the bands off good and early. Go figure.

Still they are a decent English country/Americana band but not in the derogatory way it would have been used when Summerhill were first around. They also had the third lap steel player I've seen this week and sadly he was the most pedestrian of the three. And I didn't even review the first guy's band as it was a party covers band.

The first couple of songs I heard were really well played and pleasant enough, but also just a touch unmemorable sadly as they just sound like several other bands ploughing similar furrows currently. Oh, and yes, they do feature an ex-member of the wrong line-up of Summerhill singing with them.

They finished with Invitation To the Blues and they were certainly more Buck Owens than Tom Waits in the re-working into the bands own kitchen sink drama. It was full of good interplay between the band and the singers and a lot of fun to boot.

Next up is Michele Stodart from The Magic Numbers, who I know I've seen before a while ago. She starts off solo and singing about what her love has done to her moods. Well, it's made her blue, of course.

Then she's joined by Raevennan Husbandes from The Moulettes on various guitars and backing vocals and she has an aura about her that's just magnetic. She reminded me of the first couple of times I saw Michelle Shocked - just something that shines, how have I not heard her music before!!?

The first song they did together was something about Taking Your Loving Back and now they reminded me of Lucas & King: a very similar female duo who supported John Murry earlier in the year.

As most of the songs are bruised love songs, Michele was soon full of wracked emotion as there was No Other One Like You - well of course not. But as Raevannan swapped guitars and added textures, I couldn't keep my eyes off her playing as no matter what Michele was singing about I was transfixed by that guitar playing even if half the club couldn't shut up to listen.

The song they wrote together that I think is about them falling in love with each other (and what A foolish love it may be) was just beautiful; full of great textured emotion and playing - as long as I could blank out the background chatter, at least.

They finished with what I have down as When you Wait For Me - another song of yearning and love gone who knows where full of some great guitar interplay as they threw shapes at each other across the stage and they got increasingly involved. It was great to watch and makes me want to explore much more of Raevennann Husbandes music as well as Michele Stodart's.

Soon enough it was time for Summerhill who really don't look old enough to have been around 30 years ago. I had to nick the setlist afterwards to make sure I had a clue as to what they sang as they opened with Rosebud, which brought with it bucolic images of life in Glasgow in the 70's and 80's. Of the bands youth, oh wait they sound proper Byrds-style country and not gritty in that way as they wanted to Dream of another place.

Keep You In Mind was a cool country kiss-off full of twangly jangly guitars. Lately seemed to be full of boasts about how much Love he has and as they pretty much play Lowdown in order. For anyone who remembers the album, they will know how this is going to unfold. Let's not count me among them until I listen to the re-issue a few more times.

Knew I Would Return is one of those lines you throw at someone you know is ready to move on but you want one more go round with. It's delivered in a heartfelt almost International Submarine Band style of twang-time blues.

It's Gonna Be Alright (I think) was the first of the songs I sort of remember from the first time round but it might just be the familiarity of another song with this title. Hold Back the Heartache as some great yearning and keening vocals from Seori Burnett that go with the jangling country beat they shared with The Rockingbirds.

They then deviated from the script and got the whole band around one microphone for a pretty much acapella version of The Rolling Stones' Wild Horses that in this context was almost bluegrass in its inspiration and was a real highlight no matter how unrehearsed it may have been.

They returned to Lowdown for Say Goodbye that wasn't the last song of the set but another bucolic kiss off. Story Of A Lie may well have been the reason for the goodbye of course and once it's been exposed like this in song you may need to turn round and start begging like they do in I Want You. They have a hell of a smirk on their faces that they are back at the borderline for the first time in 28 years.

They put together two songs that sort of answer each other in Ask Her Why and I Don't Know Why the latter of which is a late addition and according to the setlist was a D/G/E/A progression as the battle of the hearts unfolds in full on twang time jangle.

Golden Sunshine seemed to fill the room with happiness and some distant memory in my head of having heard it before sometime. They closed with Our Friends Are Dead, which had nothing to do with Wasted Youth but that awful thing of people passing too soon. Then they thanked everyone as they said good night.

They were soon back for an encore that should have been Found A Friend - and I hope they have found one or two as they sound more like a current country band now than they ever did first time round. This was a lot of fun to see and hear and I guess the last song they did was River Blue: a nice way to end a decent set from Summerhill. In the end, it was well worth seeing them again. In fact, they really ought to try and tour with Terry & Gerry or one of those other country acts from back then that are back in action.
  author: simonovitch

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