Young Pilgrims, Hare & Hounds review, Birmingham – loud jazz rockers cause storm
While a third wave of Covid-19 is widely predicted in the media and the UK music scene has still not recovered from the last, audiences must take their concerts as they are served. Considering the media coverage, I admit having visions of the hare and dogs set up like a school exam room, however, it wasn’t that bad.
The crowd for the launch of the long-delayed Young Pilgrims album We are young pilgrims found themselves seated in short rows of plastic seats as if to see amateur plays in a church hall. Nevertheless, as in the film Free of any tie, dancing was strictly prohibited, even though each chair was marked with a QR code to order beer delivered by the waiter.
Still, the Hare was filled to the brim with reduced capacity with many members of the crowd eagerly anticipating their first dose of live music in nearly 18 months – and they weren’t going to be disappointed. Richard Foote’s rock jazzers unequivocally delivered a muscular phalanx of brass and two drum kits that could have knocked down the walls of Jericho without amplification.
Walking through the audience to take the stage as if they had just wandered from an afternoon spent hanging out in the local park, the young pilgrims were relaxed and didn’t betray any of the nerves one might expect of a nine-piece that hasn’t played together in the spotlight for so long. Starting with “Rufio” from their new album, the band made it clear that they were serious from their first notes, enthusiastically jumping around the stage as Chris Maddock hit his saxophone solo. The funky “Le Poisson Rouge” from the first album Little things followed, with no loss of energy and it was clear that if the crowd had had the nerve, the chairs would have been kicked out and the hips shaken as if lives depended on them.
Foote, as always, has proven to be an engaging leader. One minute letting it rip with his trombone, the next acting like an enthusiastic hype man, then giving an entertaining schtick between songs. “Has anyone been to Japan? No? Well this one is for anyone who likes to eat sushi then! He smiles before launching into the “Kabuki Dance” of trombonist Kieran McLeod. Covers of D’Angelo’s “Feel Like Making Love”, Elliot Smith’s “Everything Means Nothing” and Vulfpeck’s “Back Pocket” have shown that the band is really good at organizing other people’s work and getting something out. different and exciting. However, it was the group’s beautiful originals like “Canal Tripping”, “Little Things” and “Fighting Cocks” that were the highlights of this eventful evening.
Slowing down and reminding us that there are many who haven’t made it through the Covid pandemic on an emotional balance with Michael Owers’ “You Don’t Have To”, Young Pilgrims showed they are more than just a frenzied party machine. Indeed, their sung refrain of “These are the days you won’t soon forget” from Little things “Closing Theme” also reiterated that things are not back to normal yet. But let’s hope that this light at the end of the tunnel is really the harbinger of jumping into damp, sweaty rooms with like-minded souls without fear of being arrested in the very near future.