Full credit to sound guy Stacey, the venue owners and the staff for their enthusiastic running of this basement bar of a music venue in London’s West Brompton, the easy option to have the premises solely as a bohemian cafe/bar in the increasingly by the day gentrified area. First of the acoustic support acts is Elliot Pritchard with a very fine vocal and mix of earnest songwriter with British indie melodies. He was followed by Anglo Aussie duo Hux whose dual guitar upbeat riffing combined with fine harmonies was received well by the sold out crowd. The Headliners, the Glasgow based Hellfire Club can only yearn for a wide stage but tonight the eight piece (vocals/guitars/bass/drum/keys/fiddle/saxophone) daren’t move too much due to the small stage limitations. The set begins with the vintage instrumental Old Joe Clark and was followed up with their debut LP opening song Sun In The Sky, a southern drawl with dark guitars to suit the lyrics and vocal harmonising all round.
In the main, their songs are led by guitarist and vocalist Willie Brown with Helen Brown on dual vocal harmonies but lead singing is shared around throughout the night. Bassist Mark Ferrari takes over for Hint of a Wink with fiddle to the fore – a Vic Chesnutt YeeHaa if there ever is/was such a thing. The next song, Absent Friends was introduced as ‘sentimentality & that kinda stuff’ – this after all is a band from the Glaswegian districts so Adelesque emotional introduction’s it aint. The song itself sways into a join in and raise your whiskey glass toast that’s instantly picked up & understood by any old or first time listeners.
Keyboardist Kenny Irvine took to lead vocals for Country Blue, an ode to counting planes over the urban Kew night skyline followed by guitarist Rab Armour on lead for Dali’s Clock with guitar riffs & gospel tinged chorus before a new song Redwood. New member & part time anaesthetist (I’m sure there’s a pun there somewhere) Ivan Marples on saxophone comes fully to the fore on Barricades. It’s not quite Comfortably Numb (oh there it is) but a drifting political sing-along nonetheless. Its chorus, ‘tear down the barricades, this war cannot be won’ is one so swiftly self-evident and infectious that I couldn’t help but think that the ghost of Emmeline Pankhurst, buried in the nearby cemetery, would be joining in.
A cover of the Old Crow’s Wagon Wheel lightens things up a little, instruments muted for an acapella vocal by all. Russell Irvine, brother of keyboardist Kenny (and former Bluebells member) joins in for Bungalow Bar, the band’s homage to their hometown (for some) of Paisley. Written for a musical compilation to assist in Paisley’s bidding for a UK City Of Culture accolade it’s a visit to youthful days and the Aztec Camera/Orange Juice/Postcard local scene infused with post punk romanticism. Willie returns to full lead duties for Montgomery, a bourbon soaked ode to New Orleans and Kansas with Walt Whitman imagery. The set finishes with a cover of the Velvet’s Sweet Jane while an encore of the Go Betweens Don’t Call Me Gone with Helen leading the singing is met with warm enthusiasm aplenty. No doubt, the Troubadour’s more notorious LA namesake venue has a stage big enough for its famed names but tonight The Hellfire Club fitted in just fine.