Rich Ragany and The Digressions, More Kicks, Madre Sun. Triple bill at the Black Heart, London 23/9/21

Combining multiple genres without it sounding a mess and delivering a sound that in itself is unique is always going to be a challenge but, as our album review...

Words & Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ (C) MindHex Media

Album launch shows are always something special. As with a lot of artists over the last 18 months, writing material for new albums has become de rigueur. For former Role Models founder, Rich Ragany, the situation is no different. His latest album with his wonderful band, The Digressions, is out, sounds great and rightly garnered a cracking review from us when it first came out.

Check out the album review here:

With a guarantee of some classy music on the cards from the headliner, anything else was going to be a bonus. And what a bonus it was. Whilst I’d heard of More Kicks before thanks to their links to Role Models from the early days of their career, Madre Sun were an unknown and proof yet again why you always, ALWAYS, turn up for the support bands.

Madre Sun

Madre Sun is a new London based rock / metal band formed by Cavina brothers Eduardo (lead vocal/bass) and Matt (backing vocal/guitar) with Tyson Schenker on the lead guitar and Arnaldo Rogano on drums. They are a band who, despite Tyson having a rather famous Father (yes, he’s from that Schenker family) , don’t make a big deal of their connections and instead will be making a name for themselves without needing to rely on the legacy of others.

The music is a huge bass driven sound with Eduardo playing with the sort of speed usually reserved for six stringers rather than those playing the heavier fours. With just a solitary EP to their name at the moment, ‘The Speed of Light’, the band look set to make quite an impact as and when they are able to get a suitable amount of support \ backing that will help move them up to the next level.

Eduardo’s vocals are suitably ‘rock’ with a gruff, yet melodic approach. The band push just enough into the backing vocals to create some solid harmonies as and when they are needed and with the underlying sound ‘heavy rock verging on heavy metal’, this modern outfit then get to see just what their lead guitarist can do with all of the tips and hints that have clearly been passed down to him through the secret family recipe book.

There’s no doubting that Tyson is a chip off the old block and on songs like ‘Trick Up The Sleeve’ which they closed with, the playing was just to die for. Definitely one to watch out for based on an opening slot that they capitalised on to the max.

More Kicks

After the blistering start from Madre Sun, it was perhaps slightly unfortunate that More Kicks had to follow with what was definitely a change in style, genre and approach.

With lead singer Sulli, formerly of Role Models so a logical addition to the bill for fans of the band, having trekked across London with a merch box and two guitars on public transport (fair play under any circumstances), the band definitely deserved to have any crowd sway in their favour,

With our ear still ringing from the opening act, More Kicks brand of guitar flavoured indie-pop music faltered a little from the off, just in terms of change of pace and style of delivery. Thankfully the London based trio whose self-titled LP blends together a little of  classic ’60s pop music in an Animals, Searchers, Kinks type of way with ’70s new wave vibes and more than a hint of what made Brit-pop great in the late 1990s, know how to hook a crowd in with ease.

Despite acknowledging a lack of being match fit thanks to the pandemic, Sulli and bassist Paolo are able to rely heavily on drummer Kris Hood (Speedways/Los Pepes) who just happens to be playing with two other bands at the moment so he’s fit, and playing like a greyhound charging out of the gates from the moment the first note is played. To be fair though, the other two are hardly slackers and the sense of melody and harmonies they wring out of their voices and instruments more than mask any (if their were any) hiccups that might have arisen with the lack of gigs over the last 18 months.

A certain amount of tightness has to be present as this is a band that managed to record their debut album in just 2 days. As such, whilst the style is fun, breezy at times, energised and jangly guitar pop, it’s glossy, edgy, expertly delivered and tee’d us up perfectly for what was to come next.

Rich Ragany & The Digressions

With a rapid stage change, the clock ticked nearer to the 10pm mark and Rich Ragany and the Digressions took to the stage. To say there was a host of characters on stage would be an understatement as, whilst Rich is the name at the front of it all, every band member brings something unique to the table.

Andy Brook on keys gets lost in the shadows but his visage, thanks in no small part to his distinctive hat is always noticeable as he pulls together some wonderful melodies. He is accompanied at the back of the stage by drummer Simon Maxwell and bassist Ricky McGuire (of UK Subs and The Men They Couldn’t Hang).

Flanking Rich up front, we have guitarist and vocalist Kit Swing who brings a tonne of cool to the mix and more than just a hint of 80s chic with her fantastic outfit. Her playing and voice add warmth and depth to the songs Ragany has written for the new album and it’s a dynamic that works so well. We have to hope it will remain in place for years to come.

On the other side of the front man,  guitarist Michael Gaffney (Gaff) is the embodiment of the ghost of Joey Ramone. He has the look, the attitude and most importantly the energy that takes the Digressions from being an outfit rooted in Americana to one that often sees them crossing over into multiple genres. Gaff also has another release out at the moment with Eugene Butcher’s Desperate Measures (Eugene was seen in the crowd alongside another former Role Models band mate of Rich’s,  Nick Hughes, who now fronts the multi-instrumentalist outfit The Middlenight Men) – It’s a small world out there!

A little bit of Americana never hurt anyone and the band clearly look to acts like Tom Petty for inspiration but you’ll also find some of the edgy punk tinged energy of Elvis Costello (along with some of his great lyrical sensibilities), more than a dash of The Faces, and a comparison that I didn’t consider until someone pointed it out to me, R.E.M.

Combining all of that without it sounding a mess and delivering a sound that in itself is unique is always going to be a challenge but, as our album review above has clearly demonstrated, Rich Ragany and The Digressions have managed it. Whether it was ‘with ease’ or not, only the band know. For the punters in the crowd, what we got to see was a wonderful hour of music fronted by a charismatic and totally affable artist who knows just how to write a tune.

All in all, a wonderful night. 3 excellent acts, all of whom excel at what they do. One, a complete surprise and ticked the modern heavy rock box for me, one who write some of the best guitar-pop that really should be getting them more exposure on the radio and the headliners who deserve to be seen and heard by more than just the people packed into the Black Heart on a Thursday night.

“I was there….” said 2,000 people in ten years time about a venue that, at capacity, holds about 150.

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Photo Credit: Ange Cobham

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