Live Review: Blood Red Shoes, John J Presley at The Borderline, London

Blood Red Shoes

Sandy K. Moz

Any musician with the ability to diversify or challenge is always going to be far more interesting than someone who lets convention dictate every move – British guitarist John J Presley certainly does not fit any preconceived ideas adhering to the blues.

Presley’s dirty blues-rock inspires. Adding different elements to the old tradition, his music has a strong identity and this comes across during his live performance tonight (26th Jan). He has a calm presence and makes things look and sound as though they are simple and rudimentary when they aren’t. Starting off with The Fear, which gives the impression of being written as a gig-opening track, its husky, smoky vibe builds slowly, there’s focus, a route and it knows where to go. It’s a remarkable start, and a clear indicator of what’s to come.

Next, Rise And Fall surprises. Its galloping, thumping drum-beat possesses an intense rawness. It’s followed by True Love Waits, Presley’s 2018 single release, its traditional blues sound both calming and comforting. Anytime sets up a different atmosphere, Presley’s guitar solo delivered in his trademark style and sound, while the electrifying emanation of Sweet Superstition fires the crowd up. It’s naked and captivating in equal measure.

He brings his set to completion with Left, a Jack White-resembling piece of brilliance, and Riders. Both leave strong impressions. Presley deserves to reach far more people, that is for sure.

With five studio albums under their belt, at least by current music definitions Brighton’s fiery rock duo Blood Red Shoes have been around for ages. Fully deserving credit for their longevity, the strength of endurance might boil down to the seemingly rocksteady partnership between frontman Laura-Mary Carter and drummer Steven Ansell. This evening they are on top form and deliver a slick and polished performance. The level of artistry also means the crowd counts a significant number of hardcore fans who know every word, in every song.

Setting off with the piercing sonics of Elijah and Bangsar makes for an awe-inspiring opening, while Mexican Dress, taken from the current album, delivers in every way, a vibrant guitar pop song with a live execution that’s nothing short of arresting. Other highlights are Cold, the raw, direct and relentless energy of An Animal, and the quiet-versus-loud alternation technique of God Complex, while somehow placing the vocals more centrally seems to add a different dimension to the new track Howl.

In respect of sound, projection and overall delivery, it’s close to an impeccable set. Yet, in all its thumping, riff-ridden glory, it seems to miss out on nuance, variety and the element of surprise. Tonight Blood Red Shoes show they have the talent, experience and support to do anything they want. As for the future, it would be good see where a different route might take them.

(Susan Hansen)

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