Joiners Arms, Southampton

Gavin Butler & Neil Starr

When the front men of two incredible British bands come together and decide to work alongside each other, either triumph or disaster awaits their experimental urges. Luckily, Gavin Butler (The Blackout) and Neil Starr (Attack! Attack! UK) grasped the concept to transform their rock based roots into the acoustic album “Ghosts and Echoes”. It’s a simple concept; each artist writes five songs and you tour the record across the country together.

As simple as it seems, the album is no half baked experiment, and is in fact a beautifully crafted collection of bright chords, harmonies and well constructed structures which allow both dark and sunny elements of song writing to coincide with one another. So now it was time to hear their new project in the flesh, where their band’s traditional rock anthems are known for flooding venues with a wall of sound, they were now exposed as the men they are.

Gavin Butler & Neil Starr

Opening the acoustic affair is Bournemouth based pop punkers, Pump Action Radio, who have been stripped of their drummer and bassist to be left as only Jimmy and Richie. The nervous duo manage to work their upbeat pop punk tunes into catchy acoustic silhouettes, with Jimmy’s vocal qualities standing strong even at points where he was virtually singing a acapella. The transition from full band to acoustic is never easy to gloss, and despite little difference in playing style from their full sets, the bouncy duo manage to break the ice with their bubbly personas and warm glow between songs.

Local boy, The Lion and the Wolf (aka Tom George) plays a completely different ball game as he indulges the young audience in a reverb soaked, atmospheric set. Although he sings fairly quietly, this only encourages the crowd to stand down and allow Tom to lull the vibes of the venue into utter tranquility. He even successfully attempted the unorthodox performance of a song off stage, in amongst members of the crowd which drew in spectators and exposed his vocal quality without his usual effects. Catch him gigging throughout the Summer and playing on tour in Europe with Rob Lynch later this year.

George and Neil Starr

Next up is Neil and Gavin’s tour support in the form of an acoustic version of the newly formed outfit; The People The Poet. Despite their recent arrival on the scene, they have previously been known under the name; Tiger Please for the last three years and have maintained their loyal fan base from before, despite the rather abrupt name change. The comical antics of singer Leon keep the crowd entertained as his quirky and occasionally abusive banter with the crowd polarises what you would expect from their performance. Once Leon’s vocals kick in, the room falls deadly silent after previous laughter. Why? His voice is simply incredible. Rural tones drawing similarities to the likes of Ben Howard and Mumford & Sons manage to swing between smooth tones and rebellious grit, which maintains a full, hearty sound despite the simplicity of their line-up. Watch out for their full band material and a debut album under the new name this year.

Attack! Attack! (UK) have gained a reputation for being one of the most underrated bands in the UK, and the man who many will recognise is their front man Neil Starr. His distinctive vocal tones transcribe well into his unplugged material, and there should be no surprises seeing that he recently recorded an acoustic A!A! album to help fund their third and upcoming studio album. A slightly depressive message is made clear that this tour was literally “depressing”, but the sharp pop rock rooted singer holds no grudges and delivers an expectedly impressive set. A particular highlight had to be when he brought Gavin Butler on stage and sang a comical love song with altered lyrics to serenade his co-headline tour buddy. Watch out for Neil’s band Attack! Attack! UK in Andover this May.

George and Neil StarrGeorge and Neil Starr

Finally, front man of the internationally renowned British band “The Blackout”, Gavin Butler makes way on stage in front of a bunched group of teenage fans who unsurprisingly fit accordingly with the description of a typical The Blackout fan. His undeniable vocal qualities soar fluently from song to song with a couple of his own band’s anthems pleasing the expectant crowd. It’s always interesting to see how an artist from a fairly upbeat, riff driven band copes when they are stripped bare of their band mates and exposed for their individual character and ability. Many will know that Gavin’s vocals usually send fans bouncing in the chorus, but today they sent them into acoustic bliss. Ending on a comical version of Foo Fighters’ “My Hero” named “My Bobby” after Leon from The People The Poet’s pet who died (ironic how it was comical), I think the entire venue agreed that tonight was a superb evening of genuinely talented acoustic acts.

George and Gavin ButlerGeorge and Gavin Butler

The tour may be over, but Gavin and Neil’s album Ghosts and Echoes” is still available. Make sure you grab a copy and sink into a stripped down gem of a record.

Also, catch The Blackout supporting the iconic Blink 182 at the Bournemouth BIC this July!

Band Links

Ghosts and Echoes Store:

Words and photos by George Fullerton.

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