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Published: 2011/10/26
by Sam Robertson

The London Souls, Brooklyn Bowl, NYC – 10/3

Photo by Allison Murphy

Since opening a couple of years ago, the Brooklyn Bowl has committed itself to hosting artist residencies, with Questlove, Umphrey’s McGee and Soulive all performing residencies recently. The London Souls have become the latest band to move into the Brooklyn Bowl, and will perform at the Bowl each Monday in October. On October 3rd, they kicked off their residency with an intensely energetic show. After a fun opening set from Superhuman Happiness, whose afro-beat flavored jazz had the crowd dancing, The London Souls took the stage and greeted the crowd with crashing drums and fiery guitar solos. The London Souls are the kind of rock and roll band that is becoming less and less common these days. As a true power trio, the band pays tribute to their classic rock heroes of the 1960’s while also forging their own sound.

The London Souls, consisting of Tash Neal on guitar and lead vocals, Kiyoshi Matsuyama on bass and vocals, and Chris St. Hilaire on drums and vocals, wear their influences on their sleeve. Inspired by classic power trios such as Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience and Blue Cheer, The London Souls create a barrage of noise for only three musicians. Tash’s distorted, frantic guitar solos over a pounding rhythm section certainly build off of 1960’s psychedelic rock. “She’s So Mad,” which they played as an encore, brought to mind the intro to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” while “She’s In Control” hinted at The Beatles “Taxman.” The London Souls just released their debut album this summer, recording at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London. Not every band gets invited to record their debut album at the historic Abbey Road Studios, which has been home to The Beatles and Pink Floyd among other classic rock giants. But The London Souls garnered tremendous acclaim and respect before even recording an album because of their impassioned live shows.

What makes The London Souls live shows so impressive is their deadly combination of tightness and improvisation. Much of The London Souls live show is improvised – from Tash’s guitar solos to the setlist – but the band never loses sight of the groove. Tash’s frantic, fuzzy guitar solos can certainly get psychedelic, but Chris and Kiyoshi are always rumbling right behind him, and the band can slam back into the main riff and next verse on the dime. Equally influenced by heavy classic rock and soul music like Albert King and The Meters, The London Souls perform with a tight groove that most rock and roll bands can’t pull of live.

Though the band’s 70 minute set was a bit on the short side as far as headlining acts go, The London Souls are such a young band that they had played just about every song they know by the end of the night. The band played nearly their entire debut album, and also threw in covers of AC/DC’s “It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock And Roll)” and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” Though almost all songs were under five minutes long, “Folsom Prison Blues” was an exception and featured the loosest jamming of the night. On the song, Tash’s lightning fast country rock pickin’ sounded like something Jerry Garcia would play on “Cumberland Blues,” before the rhythm section drove things to a rousing climax.

Perhaps what’s most remarkable about The London Souls is just how good they are already for such a young band. Fresh off releasing their critically acclaimed debut album and having honed their live show to near perfection over the past couple of years, The London Souls seem poised for a breakout. Between Tash’s screaming guitar and a light show so intense that Hilaire had to ask the lighting guy to ease up, The London Souls feel like the heirs to 1960’s heavy psychedelic rock, but with riffs so catchy that some mainstream success could be a possibility. On this night, I felt as if I was watching The London Souls grow into a monster rock and roll band before my eyes, and was left feeling like I better rush back to The Brooklyn Bowl before the residency ends because these guys won’t be playing in New York City for a $5 cover for much longer.

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