Jim Stapley Band @93 Feet East 29/10/14

5 stars (out of 5)

5

Jim Stapley TitleI reviewed Jim Stapley’s debut album in May and since then I’ve been waiting for a chance to see him sing live. Kenny Jones rates him very highly and so do many musicians I know. Actually that’s an understatement; the ratings usually start at ‘great singer’ and finish at somewhere north of ‘fuckin’ awesome’. But I’m not taking anyone else’s word for it; I want to hear it for myself and that’s why I’m blanking the curry house touts on Brick Lane in the pouring rain to get to 93 Feet East. And I’m soaked because umbrellas really aren’t rock ‘n’ roll, are they?

The opening act is Johnson-Jay (who later reappears as guitarist in the Jim Stapley Band) performing with Jennifer Clarke as The Junipers, a two guitars/guitar keyboards duo. It’s a lovely laid-back set with strong songs and superb harmonies throughout, particularly the closer, “Can’t Take it With You”; a perfect start to the evening. Jay Scott and the Find come roaring out of the blocks for the second support set but, and this is just my opinion, don’t really consolidate as the set progresses. Sorry guys, maybe I just really wanted to see Jim Stapley. So, nearly six months after hearing the album for the first time, I’m about to hear that voice live.

Even as the band do the final preparations (placing the set lists and drinks), it’s obvious that there’s a great camaraderie there and they get a real buzz out of being together. From the relatively low-key opening bars of “Out of Sight” with drums and acoustic guitar, you know that it’s a great band out there and that they’re stoked just to be there doing what they do best. It’s difficult to pick out individual performances from the band because it’s all about showing off the songs and providing a solid platform for Jim’s stunning rock voice to soar to the heavens. At a time when vapid mediocrities are hyped to the hilt and superlative proliferation has become a way of life, it’s such a great feeling to hear a real rock singer with plenty of soul working with such a tight, professional band. Jim’s voice harks back to the 70s and singers like Paul Rodgers and Robert Plant but there’s also a soulful edge which takes it in to the territory of Steve Marriott, Frankie Miller, Joe Cocker and maybe even John Waite. I’ve heard a lot of great singers, live and on record, and Jim Stapley is right up there with the best.

The set is perfectly paced and features almost everything from the debut album, “Long Time Coming” plus the non-album song, “Somewhere” as Jim and the band switch easily between styles and dynamics. The power ballad “Laid to Waste” is followed by the slower “Heartstrings” (both on the first single) before the first out-and-out rocker “My Way Home”, which is followed by the country stylings of “Shield”. “New Religion” builds from a solo piano backing to a huge full band sound with gospel backing vocals and then it’s into a cover of “We Found Love” which Jim and the band tackle very much in their own style (juge for yourself from the clip) before blasting into the 80s style “Made of Stone”, with its massive guitar riff and epic chorus.

The wind-up to the big finish starts with “Hurricane”, a slow ballad with another big chorus, builds up with the album opener, “No Good Reason” (and another monstrous guitar riff) before “Breaking Out” begins with an acoustic intro, builds as the band join in and finishes with everyone (particularly the backing vocalists pushing it to the limit. And that’s yer lot, apart from a quick chat with the man himself on the way out. Turns out he’s also a bloody good bloke.

So, I’m going to make some recommendations for you. If you like great rock music and appreciate a true rock voice, you should check out “Long Time Coming”. Then you should buy a copy at a decent record shop or here. Then you should find out when they’re playing near you, get a ticket and prepare to be amazed at the quality of the band and Jim Stapley’s astounding voice. That’s not too difficult, is it?