Black Country, New Road - Live at Bush Hall
Mar 24, 2023 (updated Dec 31, 2023)
96
"Turbines/Pigs" song of the year and it's not close. Original review from video version below. THANK YOU FOR 100 LIKES <3

I genuinely don’t know what to say.

Ever since around last October or so, I’ve been hearing bits and pieces of this new material they’ve been testing out on their tour with Black Midi. The only tracks I had heard up to this point were “Turbines/Pig”, “I Won’t Always Love You”, and the very beginning of “Up Song” and “Across The Pond Friend”. I really just expected this to be a fun little recording of their night at Bush Hall, but I was surprised to see just how much detail went into this film.

First, it’s interesting to note that this film is compiled of footage before and after the shows as the band is either celebrating performances or working on the set and designs of the stages. Second, this film is a mashup of three nights of playing and filming at Bush Hall, all of which are decorated to be three different themes inspired by amateur plays: a pastoral farm setting, a haunted pizza parlor (lovingly named “I Ain’t Alfredo No Ghosts”), and a prom night. This includes the audience and band dressing up in outfits and makeup to make each night distinct and exciting in multiple ways.

Lastly, this has been mentioned by drummer, Charlie Wayne, that the major focal point of this set of music and this performance is the film. It’s not really hard to see that considering the detail in editing as well as the scope of the set and participation with the crowd. Speaking of this, it’s also nice to see that this film is captured from a multitude of various qualities, angles, and focuses, some of which are actually filmed with a camcorder that was passed around the concert floor for fans to film during each night.

The entire background of this just makes me so happy, seeing how interactive the band was with the planning and performance as well as the eccentric nature of it all reminding me of show weekends and festivals when I used to be in the Theatre department in both high school and part of college. Not only does that translate to me on a very personal level, but also these songs are just…magnificent.

“Up Song” is such a energetic and free intro to this performance, as the chanting of “BCNR, Friends Forever” is yelled by every member of the band as well as every person in the audience. It feels like such a lovely form of community being displayed, especially with a band that hasn’t been around for that long as considering the departure of Isaac Wood last February that questioned my ideas on how the integrity of this band’s music as well as the devotion of their fans would change. Thankfully, no need to worry as this new band is more than ready to show a new side of their sound and presentations.

“The Boy” is an extremely intricate and multilayered baroque pop and art rock track as we are first introduced to May Kershaw on lead vocals, reminding me of both Fiona Apple and Björk at times. It was also very memorable to me as it was the first time seeing Charlie’s pizza parlor makeup (oh my).

“I Won’t Always Love You” is a fragile story of heartbreak and moving on that turns into a fiery, driving post-punk track composed of steady guitar, blasting drums, and suspenseful sax and violin from Lewis and Georgia. This was the first song from the handful of tracks I ever heard, and it was what made me comfortable to say that this band wasn’t going away anytime soon. This performance does that once again for me in spades, being mixed to really bring out the stormy energy of the second half of this track. Also seeing them perform this track in the prom gear just fits for some reason (Tyler’s outfit is fucking GORGEOUS). It’s an amazing performance of an amazing song, being reinforced as just another reason to love this new lineup.

“Across The Pond Friend” is the first of two tracks to be performed by saxophonist, Lewis Evans, on lead vocals. With his vocals understandably being weaker at the start of the tour, you can already tell he’s become much more confident in his voice as it feels very rich at times and raw at others. This is probably my least favorite of this batch, but it’s still an adorable song that fits the film’s choice to include the farm setting for the main performance. Also, the ending of this song with those loud, staccato chords from the whole band are so damn cool.

“Laughing Song” is the third track sung by Tyler Hyde, bassist and backup singer for BC,NR. This song is so emotional draining, reminiscing over relationships where passion is lost and connection between the two gets weaker and weaker. This is both the song that reminds me the most of the band’s last two records as well as the song where Tyler, who already does so more than anyone else in the band, reminds me of Isaac the most with her switch between her wavering vibrato and monotone talk-singing. This is then followed by a short intermission of the band during the process of creating the sets and props for the different nights. It reminds me all too well of tireless nights of making props and entire stages for musicals and plays during high school drama. I’m gonna mention drama and theatre quite a lot, so bear with me.

We are then brought back to the haunted pizza parlor for Lewis’ second and final leading track, “The Wrong Trousers”. It starts very easy with Luke providing a hall of guitar for Lewis’ soft vocals to travel down before being meeting with the marching cadence of Charlie’s snare. This then leads us into one of many times where the track transitions into a swing. Layered with light accordion, delicate bass, and backup/duet vocals with Tyler, this song feels very dreamy and light, constantly refraining that they “made something to be proud of”. Whether this refers to the male and female in this story realizing that their story was beautifully made, even though it ended, it’s still beautiful at the end of the day.

Speaking of dreamy and beautiful, then comes (watch out for this)…maybe a top 3 BC,NR song; top 5 at least. This, of course, is the floating fantasy of witches, pigs, and love: “Turbines/Pig”. For some reason, this was the song that captivated me the most on first watch of this film, despite easily being the song I praise the most of this batch and have since I first heard it. It almost feels like how you hear your kid practicing lines for their musical, staying up all night trying to get the scenes right, spending time away from home at practice and rehearsal, all to culminate into one performance. All their efforts, all the time and the energy spent to get to this point. I couldn’t do anything but just watch in wonder as how this song would finally be delivered to us in an official way.

It was perfect. The delicate and sweet piano from May guides us like stars in the sky as May is flying through the clouds with her soft, soothing vocals, telling us a story of turning into a witch, seeing turbines beneath her, and flying away from it all in a sonic and narrative atmosphere that honestly reminds of the feelings of comfort and security I get when I watch older Studio Ghibli films (specifically “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, and yes, that’s most due to the whole witch/flying thing, but it still applies). This song just fills me with some kind of nostalgia or warmth that makes it feel like something I’ve dreamt before or somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. If I had to describe this song in one word, it’d be “magical”.

The penultimate track in this performance, “Dancers”, is lyrically oozing with jealousy and unease, as we hear Tyler sing of this girl that she thought she knew, seemingly being eaten up by everyone around except for her. With the insistence of the line, “Dancers stand very still on the stage”, eventually being echoed by others in the band, it feels almost as if this image she believes she deserves is not what she earned. It feels as if this tracks delivers some type of outlet to understand her own feelings and how they’ve become disconnected to her self-perception.

Usually, “Dancers” was the closers for their set during touring, (I’m pretty sure, I didn’t go to a show because I’m dumb) instead it is closed with a powerful and elegant reprise of “Up Song”. Tyler’s vocals cut through the melting of instruments seamlessly as if the sound is caving in around her. It feels like this light is fading and the story is over as the vocals end, the violin fades, and the piano says goodbye. Following a completely expected roar of applause, the credits roll and what is a historic live performance and presentation by this group.

I’ve been excited for this all day, but had to wait until after I was finished moving to my new house (which thankfully WAS today; yay). Exhaustion and anticipation for this film started to butt heads, but this film left me multiple things: happy, satisfied, and grateful. I’m grateful that these songs weren’t left out of the discussion for turning them into some type of product, whether it be their third studio album, a live album, or in the best case, a concert film. It not only exceeded my expectations as a project, but made its way into my mind and heart as something I viewed and will continue to watch with nothing but joy and love for this band. I save a lot of concert videos on YouTube to watch again and again when I’m in a live music drought, but I really do see this as a comfort film, a passion project, a love letter to fans and to each other as bandmates and as friends.

Thank you Black Country, New Road. It’s perfect.

100.00+

**EDIT: (8/31/23): 100.00+ --> 98.84; it's not a 100 anymore ;_; BUT it is still a 10 :)))) (some songs shrank; held onto them for too long because the highs on here made me overrate the album as a whole, as I tend to do a lot lol)

*EDIT: (12/31/23): 98.84 --> 96.23. Last time it's changing this year, I promise LOL

Favorite Tracks: Up Song, The Boy, I Won’t Always Love You, Across The Pond Friend, Laughing Song, Turbines/Pig, Dancers
Least Favorite: The Wrong Trousers (if I had to choose)

TheUmbranHammer's Tags
4 Comments
11mo
finally got time to read through this, loved the rev <3 what a fantastic album
11mo
@Ashxarya thank you so much! it really is incredible; i was so excited to review this
10mo
Into The Endless Night exists though
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