Black Country, New Road mid performancePAUL HUDSON/WIKICOMMONS,,_New_Road_(49387475637).jpg#/media/File:Black_Country,_New_Road_(49387475637).jpg

Black Country, New Road makes a devastating and triumphant chamber rock return with Live at Bush Hall. Following the exit of Isaac Wood in 2022 on mental health grounds, Black Country, New Road radically changed their writing process to produce a set of entirely new songs, deciding to cease playing previous material out of respect for their former frontman. Five of the nine tracks are adapted from bassist Tyler Hyde’s solo repertoire as Tyler Cryde, with saxophonist Lewis Evans and pianist May Kershaw providing the rest.

“The lyricism is self-aware but charming and deeply sincere”

Live at Bush Hall is the culmination of a year’s touring with black midi in the US and various festival sets, the recordings taken from the best of a two-day stint at the West London venue. The accompanying concert film directed by Greg Barnes, documenting the fictional play-themed shows, is laced with the undeniable nostalgia found in mid-2000s home video footage.

The opening “Up Song” is a reassuring pat on the backs of critics and fans alike: after the band sings in unison, ‘Look at what we did together / BC,NR friends forever’, Hyde quotes the very first bass line of their previous album but with a melancholic augmented fifth beneath the final lines (‘I’ve come apart / and I’ve fallen into two halves’). From the outset BC,NR interweaves pangs of uncertainty with the cathartic force of music played and sung together.

Kershaw’s “The Boy” and the monumental “Turbines/Pigs” are two feats of fantasy storytelling, the former a fable in three chapters of a robin’s reckoning with his broken wings, supplemented by Evans’ playful birdsong flute runs. The latter is a gentle, then epic, witchy adventure with an earth-shattering Steve-Reich-style crescendo that gives their sophomore album a run for its money. Where her robin admits defeat —‘I won’t try to fly’— Kershaw’s witch-protagonist drifts off into the sky, and a spiritual figure learns to fly all by itself, ‘You chose to float above us’.

Black Country, New Road - 'Live at Bush Hall' YouTube / Black Country, New Road

Evans’ crooning has blossomed during their rigorous touring, his “Across The Pond Friend” representing their poppiest effort on the record. His lyricism is self-aware but charming and deeply sincere: ‘In my dream, you came running to me / And then fall back into my arms / Wake up / Let’s eat’. In a particularly sweet moment, the band interpolates Sinatra’s “My Way” as Evans sings the melody of its title line, referencing a karaoke night with his dear friend. While his “The Wrong Trousers” reflects the same sentiment as “Up Song” in its refrain, ‘We made something to be proud of’, the track doesn’t quite hold the same weight as the rest of the album; it feels rather plain and uninventive in comparison but has nevertheless found an audience who would strongly disagree.


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Drummer Charlie Wayne, guitarist Luke Mark and violinist Georgia Ellery cannot go ignored. Wayne’s chops are incredible, his fills tastefully sparse when necessary and virtuosically explosive in the band’s signature post-rock crescendos. His screamed backing vocals on the final chorus of “Dancers” are particularly heart-wrenching. Mark’s guitar lines are equally refined, with highlights including “Up Song”’s dextrous arpeggios, and the devastating distorted melody of “Turbines/Pigs” in its final instrumental. Ellery’s violin flutters through every song in a beautiful interplay with Evans and Kershaw, especially during their trio instrumental section in Turbines.

The references to journeys and taking flight across the album unavoidably evoke Wood’s masterful poetry on Ants From Up There. The band takes up their unique journey and infuses their music with his presence and absence, all while developing a distinct body of work that marks the band’s current status: a group of friends collaborating to produce an aural representation of their unshakeable camaraderie, still soaring rapidly skyward.