Josh Farro, formerly of the band Paramore, broke away from his gig as their guitarist when he felt the music they were making was no longer an adequate expression of his own creativity. Since then, his new alt-rock outfit, Farro, could be seen as the purest distilled version of his own musical vision. But will his fondness for the alternative rock of the 2000s translate into a fun night out and a stupendous gig?
Firstly though, he’s brought on his tour of England a couple of acts local to the British Ilse. The first of which is Ireland’s Greywind. But the first question I have is, what on earth are Greywind doing as a support act? They don’t seem like a support act. Front woman, Steph O’Sullivan clearly doesn’t think that she’s in a supporting act. The way she performs, in both the tone of her voice and the expressions on her face, speaks to a much more experienced and confident artist than someone who will have her first headlining experience in January (Friday the 27th at the Old Church in St. Pancras). Perhaps the comparison is intentional, but the only time I’ve seen a front woman this destined for greatness was when I saw the video for Emergency by Paramore on Kerrang! TV way back in 2005.
Her brother deserves praise too, the acoustic guitar work he brings to the stage makes their set a lonelier and more stripped-down experience than their fans would normally be used to, but it really brings out the melancholy in his sister’s voice.
Next up are Natives, who begin with a massive percussive outburst. It’s a strong line that permeates the set, I don’t think at any one time does the band have any less than two drummers, with all the other members at one time or another doing double duty on the skins. Natives are, as their name would hint, are a tribal pop band with a strong sense of tropical rhythms, the kind that have been ruefully absent from the charts since Paul Simon’s Graceland.
The production of the set is amazing too, with the unison of the drums and the harmonising of the vocals making anyone listening from the outside of the room think that there was an army forming in The Borderline. I thought an especially nice touch was the words ‘Hitachi no input detected’ across the faces of the band members, denoting the vacancy of our modern world and the empty promises of technology. Then I realised that someone had just accidentally turned the projector on.
The projector was there for the headliners, Farro. The images created a firework display of sparks and lights across the bodies of the band with Josh himself being the centre point. It created a series of visual clues as to how you should be feeling, an exuberantly unnecessary addition, but a welcome one.
The music is a journey of Farro’s influences beginning with the melodic rock of Coldplay and Radiohead and ending with a flourish that sounds decidedly Springsteen. He even finds time in the set to get a little a cappella with his fellow bandmates providing vocal backup to a couple of tunes that are only accompanied by Farro’s guitar and voice.
An especially poignant moment of the night is the song he introduces by saying that his parent’s divorce was a sad time for him, but it made for a good song, at least. That was a good, chucklesome line, but the way that the song starts out so forlorn and gives way to a massive wail of pained emotion is the rawest and most honest of all of the night’s emotional moments.
Farro topped off a night of strong performances from a group of gifted songwriters with a talent for illustrating the meaning of their songs though the simplest of methods. Farro and the bands that preceded them created an invigorating, life-affirming and soul-lifting night.
Photography by Tom Rose