It’s been 9 years since The Sad Song Co put out a new record and in the music industry’s current climate that seems like a generation ago but it’s not like lead singer and multi-instrumentalist, Nigel Powell has been inactive, if anything it is the complete opposite as he has dedicated his time to his “day job” as drummer of Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls which is well documented as a non stop schedule of touring and creating music. Finally, a bit of time off in 2015 gave the band a chance to create some new music which comes in the form of their new album “In Amber” which is set to be released on 18th November. The band decided to go on their first tour of the UK in support of the new album, playing in intimate venues such as the long standing Star & Garter in Manchester.
As spectators shuffle their seats and stools as close to the action as possible, Nigel and band mate Jason Moulter, take to the stage and without any word or warning step in to a song taken off their new record “Moment of Clarity” which is a song written about someone’s mind being lost to Alzheimer’s, quite a grim topic but Powell’s gentle vocals and soft piano make it easier listening as the crowd is hushed to a silent appreciation. After a short introduction and a reminder of where the merch stand is, Nigel tells how a female singer in a band he was a roadie for inspired their next song “I Love Joy” which is taken from the second album “Poignant Device”, the song has an upbeat guitar riff throughout and has a beat to tap your feet to with Powell showing his wide vocal range as he hits the high notes of the chorus.
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Again, Powell describes the origins of the next song as one he doesn’t remember creating but after hearing a CD of him playing it at BBC Oxford, he decided to finish the song off but it is yet to have a home so may well find its way onto album number four. The song is titled “Lifestyles” but as the lead singer admits, he doesn’t know what it’s about but it makes references to Jesus Christ which is always an interesting song topic. The band continue to stretch into their back catalogue as they play another from their second album, “Rescue” a song which is described as trying to make amends with your past but it not always working out, the song has an emphatic piano sequence that once again highlights Powell’s musical talents.
Despite having the words “sad song” in the bands name it seems that doesn’t mean they exclusively just write doom and gloom tracks as the crowd are hit with three positive and optimistic songs in a row, the first being a new song “Last Dance of the Evening” an up beat track reminiscing on an old couple’s first meeting, another song taken off the new album “Legacy of Love” a guitar driven song that takes the tempo down slightly but spotlights Powell’s uplifting vocals and “Into the Hills” which is from their debut album, “Miseryguts” and it’s the guitar that is the driving force of the song again as the tone gives an up tempo rhythm and blues vibe to the song which was inspired by a row of traffic lights on green down a long road in New York City, a reminder to find the little positives in life.
As we come to the end of the set, Nigel banters with the crowd about how it would be ridiculous of him to step off stage and hide behind a speaker waiting for the cheers to beckon him back for an encore so instead he asks the audience to vote whether he plays one or two more song, of course the cheers are for two more. The first song of the last two was a cover of American singer songwriters Ben Folds, bitter sweet song “Landed” before finishing off the night with a song that reflects the need to sometimes say goodbye, “Meet You There” seems to be the perfect note to sign off on.
It was a genuine pleasure to see this band play live as it happens so rarely it felt like a special occasion and it was good to see the talents of Nigel Powell as a vocalist, a guitarist, a keyboardist and a front man with his attitude always humble and engaging as he had no problem bantering with the crowd in a light hearted manner which made the show a more intimate and shared experience. The band name might misguide the casual fan as a band that are all doom and gloom but it’s obvious that after seeing them play live, nobody was leaving the venue without anything but a smile on their face.