After a break lasting a few years, England’s The Heavy decided to tour around the U.S.A. again, this time toting fresh new tracks from their most recent album “Hurt and The Merciless.”
It’s difficult to pull off neo-soul style while trying to create an individual image for your band outside of that category, but The Heavy does it well. Their sound is reminiscent of The Black Keys, Sharon Jones, Lee Fields, Charles Bradley and others. The Heavy stands out by being so comfortable with playing big music, being intimate with the audience, really allowing the ambiance of the music flow from the instruments directly into the crowd.
Front man Kelvin Swaby did an incredible job of keeping the show moving through the set list quickly with small bits of conversation between each track. Dan Taylor (guitar), Spencer Page (bass), and Chris Ellul (drums) had clearly performed some kind of ritual before the show- their grooves were so in sync that it contributed to the thrilling aura vibrating from the crowd as a whole. Swaby’s suave attitude and rough voice encouraged the audience to sing the words to almost every song with an incredible level enthusiasm. Swaby’s love for a call and response type of performance was put on display as voices from the crowd echoed lyrics from “Big Bad Wolf” and “Curse me Good” while deep hues of blue, purple, and orange lights oozed across the faces in the room.
Swaby and his crew make it obvious that they appreciate “dirt” in what they create; that’s what makes their music so different, most mistakes that are made during recording aren’t even removed from the final cut of the track. This is why seeing them perform live is magical- they sound exactly the same on the album.
When they left the stage after showcasing almost the entirety of their new album, it seemed as if they had been forgetting something very important, like playing the tune that had really put them on the map. You know, the song used in the Bradley Cooper movie? The song used in multiple car commercials? In a variety of television shows?
After the crowd chanted the band’s name for a solid three minutes, they returned to the stage, bringing with them three saxophone players and a couple of horns. Immediately the audience knew what they’re real exit song would be. The drums and bass of “How You Like Me Now” slammed into the room and created an atmosphere of excitement and appreciation- there really are no words to describe finally hearing a song like that live.
The garage-neo-soul-funk band put on quite a show and if I had to give one criticism? The show didn’t last long enough.
The Heavy played:
The Apology, Since You Been Gone, What Happened to the Love?, Nobody’s Hero, Miss California, Short Change Hero, Curse Me Good, The Big Bad Wolf, Slave to Your Love, Mean Ol’ Man, Last Confession, Turn Up, How You Like Me Now
Words by Mary Helen Josephine