Treetop Flyers, The Lexington, London, 23rd August 2018

This gig heralded the Treetop Flyers’ self-titled new – and third – album due out the very next day on Loose Records and recorded just a mile or two north of the venue in Stoke Newington. It’s a notably young audience which is good news for the growth of this musical niche, with your reviewer feeling decidedly in the upper quartile on the age chart. The venue is packed out as is the stage with the quintet and their expanding hoard of instruments – the original trio of Reid Morrison, Laurie Sherman and Sam Beer having been augmented by sax man Geoff Thomas Widdowson, doing a job share with Danny and the Champions of the World, and drummer Rupert Shreeve.

The opening song ‘Warning Bell’ had bluesy soul elements a la Allman brothers, a mood echoed later in the final encore’s expansive style, while second number, ‘Kooky Clothes’, is a slower harder rock number whose pace recalls Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Gold Dust Woman’. Sam Beer’s vocal delivery is a much deeper sound than that of their established lead singer Morrison who comes across with a more easy feeling Eagles vibe and their swapping of lead vocals is perhaps the most obvious ‘compare and contrast’ running through the set. Stating the obvious here perhaps but the layering of sax and Mellotron around the vocal/guitar foundation hugely changes the sound. It’s striking that the array of styles on the new material covers a much wider landscape than their debut, ‘The Mountain Moves’, which is where the inevitable CSNY references seem to originate from with the fourth number tonight, ‘Sleep’,  very much in this Laurel Canyon vein.

‘Hard to Understand’ had a soul-cum-pop mood and the sax’s presence gives it a Dexyish sound. Next was a powerful highlight of the show on ‘Lady Luck’ with Beer leading the vocals from behind the keyboards  and if the lyric “I recall the stars tonight even though my eyes were blind” is  kind of Prog Rock it’s stirring stuff and devoid of any of the self indulgence that those two words often bring to mind. The lush instrumental ‘Needle’ followed, inspired apparently, by a Ted Hawkins song heard by Morrison in the shower.

Very different but equally slick was the new single ‘Knew I’d Found You’ with just guitars and three-part harmonised vocals, top drawer stuff in the vein of current Brit Americana along the lines of Ward Thomas or Black Feathers. The main set closed with ‘The Art of Deception’, a long but interesting and sprawling song most deeply entrenched in 70s West Coast rock but heading down various avenues, almost like a suite (CSNY alert there) in what was the boldest song of the night.

The band state that the eponymous title of the latest album is because the disc is, “What we believe to be our most true to form record…. and (it) represents a fresh start for the band.” It’s undeniable that they are pushing into wider realms than in their early material and sounding the more exciting for doing so.

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