I have adored Howling Bells ever since the first time that I saw them playing at The Barfly in Birmingham in 2006. I remember buying their debut album at the gig and being amazed that such a great sounding band were playing at a venue so small. 8 years later and I am watching them play at another small Birmingham venue; The Hare & Hounds, and I am still gobsmacked that they haven’t made it bigger. However, it is always lovely to see a band playing at an intimate venue as it often makes for a warmer
Entering the stage with a quiet confidence, the four piece launched into their dark yet sexy opener for the evening, Paris. This is the opening track from their latest offering Heartstrings and is a perfect slice of brooding Americana with lead singer Juanita’s passionate, heartfelt vocals and Joel’s echoing guitar riffs.
The rest of their set largely consisted of tracks from their self-titled debut and the new album Heartstrings. In fact; the band pretty much ignored their middle two releases Radio Wars and The Loudest Engine, with the exception of tracks Cities Burning Down, Nightingale and The Wilderness. Unfortunately their middle albums were not so popular when released, so the band have tonight opted to be rather selective about which tracks they perform from those and seem to have made the right decision in choosing the stronger songs.
The disturbingly dark A Ballad for the Bleeding Hearts showcased Juanita’s voice at it’s vulnerable and spine-chilling best as she conveyed a relationship gone sour and Gary and Glenn’s bass guitar and drums combo sounded particularly punchy in Slowburn, which is a sharp slice of desert rock. I also enjoyed hearing oldies Setting Sun and Low Happening which were two of my favourites from the debut album.
The band were well received and ended the night on a high performing Broken Bones. It is good to see Howling Bells returning to their edgy yet velvety best with their new release and latest set of gigs and I am looking forward to seeing what the future will bring for this band that should be so much bigger!