Stone Foundation Live @ 229, The Venue

5 stars (out of 5)

2

ThumbnailFor one March night in the spring of 2014, the north-west corner of Fitzrovia became a time machine.  Last Friday, the area shifted back thirty-five years; you couldn’t escape the check shirts, Harringtons, black shades and pork pie hats in The Albany and the Green Man.  The reason for this sartorial timeshift was that The Selecter was back in town at 229, The Venue supported by Warwickshire’s best-kept funk secret, Stone Foundation.  Reunion tours and nostalgia gigs, I can take ’em or leave ‘em; The Selecter played a really tight, professional set and had the audience bouncing  to the sound of all the old hits.  The old fans loved it and why shouldn’t they; the performance was probably much better technically than the late 70s/early 80s shows.  They also got a really good DJ set from Rhoda Dakar, which built up nicely to the start of the headliners’ set.

But while we’re talking about time travel, let’s go back to the start of the evening.  The support band chosen by The Selecter for this tour is Stone Foundation from Atherstone in Warwickshire and they are very special.  Stone Foundation’s fourth album, “To Find the Spirit” is out this week.  On the back of years of hard work and touring, the band seems to have become a ten-year overnight success.  The independently-released album looks set to make an impact on the album chart this week and the band is riding the crest of the wave; the band recognise all of this and refer to it during their support set, but really it’s business as usual with maybe a hint of celebration.

And business as usual is a seven-piece soul/funk band playing together as a tight unit and having a great time.  This band doesn’t have an obviously dominant personality; they all work together, the guitar, horns and Hammond combining over the solid rhythm section of Neil Sheasby and Philip K Ford to produce a sound with all of the best elements of sixties and seventies soul and funk.  If you imagine a cross between the Average White Band and Dexys Midnight Runners, then you won’t be far off the mark.  In true jazz club style, there are solos throughout the set from Ian Arnold (Hammond), Spencer Hague (trombone), Dexy D’Angelo (trumpet), Gary Rollins (saxophone) and, occasionally, Neil Jones (guitar).  How often do you hear trombone, muted trumpet and soprano sax solos these days?

The set opened with the new album’s title track, “To Find the Spirit”, and also included “Bring Back the Happiness”, “Don’t Let the Rain” “, “Stronger Than Us” and “That’s the Way I Want to Live my Life” as well as earlier tracks, “No More the Fool”, “Let the Light” and “Tracing Paper”.  If you want to hear flawless contemporary soul/funk then you should really listen to Stone Foundation either live or on record; you won’t be disappointed either way.  While we have bands like this writing, playing and performing, there’s still hope for the music business.