The Nashville signed The War and Treaty, led by husband-and-wife Tanya and Michael Trotter have played at the Grammys and the Grand Ol’ Opry, but this is their first UK Tour.
“Do you like my banter?” Michael Trotter asks, and the crowd cheer. He likes to have a chat between songs. Tonight, it’s about nothing in general, just building the rapport, opting mainly for mischievous anecdotes, and largely sidestepping their back story. On another night they might have talked about how Michael is an ex-soldier and still suffers from PTSD, or that he learned to play piano in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces that his battalion was stationed in. Or of Tanya’s deal with Sean Combs’ management company two decades ago, or her screen debut, singing with Lauryn Hill in Sister Act II.
So, The War and Treaty is perhaps a second chance for Tanya Blount-Trotter, and she is giving everything for tonight’s show – a vocal style to rival Aretha/Chaka/Mary J combined with the stage presence of Tina Turner. And then there’s Michael. Sometimes understated and humble, standing behind his stage piano, slowing down the intro before the first bars of ‘Yearning’ like a church pastor and singing in a sweet soul falsetto, then, he blasts the stage with a strong baritone. The couple gaze at each other, and caress at key moments, none of this appears staged, it’s all about coaxing the best performance.
The catalogue includes two acclaimed albums, 2018’s ‘Healing Tide’ and 2020’s ‘Hearts Town’ and they play a few from these, including ‘Are You Ready to Love Me? ‘ and ‘Hey Pretty Woman’ but they also opt to risk new songs: the out-and-out country of ‘Yesterday’s Burn’ and a premier of an unheard song ‘The Best That I Have’ –Michael suggests, “Just boo at the end if you didn’t like it.” He then launches into the beautiful, sweet soul ballad, that falsetto to the fore again. At the end, he surveys the scene nervously for a millisecond before the rapturous applause – “I guess that went ok“ he quips.
They praise Glasgow: the people, the beauty and “all that architecture” and they namecheck a choir who helped them on a recording of their lockdown anthem ‘We Are One’. After searching Nashville, they ended up with a Scottish gospel choir, members of which have turned up here, eerily singing along from the darkness. Later, in an instrumental break, the band get treated to a classic Glasgow “here we, here we, here we -‘king go!” chant from the whipped up crowd, which clearly amuses them.
Tonight’s show was a celebration of joy and tenderness: they played as a five piece, but felt almost driven by a sixth presence, the warmth and euphoria of the audience. It was not sold out, they didn’t seem to mind, happy delivering intimacy. This tour ends at Glastonbury and hopefully the TV coverage will help deliver the crossover attention that The War And Treaty deserve in UK.
That back-story, that involves Saddam Hussein, Lauryn Hill, Jason Isbell, Puff Daddy and a Hollywood screenplay, is all online and makes a fascinating read.