Retroville at the Magic Lantern

Retroville at the Magic Lantern


It was nearly a year ago (January 28th 2018) that I reported in the pages of "Hot Music Live" that Holly Hewitt & David Page of Retroville were developing their Hounds blues band to create a fuller sound beyond their duo lineup. Last night they delivered a stunning set in the Magic Lantern in what might be described as a hybrid identity as nominally an expanded lineup Retroville with the addition of a rhythm section of Craig Rhind & John Webber, yet the gig, given the personnel & much of the setlist, might equally reasonable have been a Hounds concert (or indeed a ‘Beloved Hounds' one to use a name they had toyed with at one time & one I'm slightly disappointed they put aside).

You may have seen the video they shot in the venue last year ( so you'll know how well they fit into it both visually & sonically. Playing to a capacity (sold out) crowd, the intimacy suited the material & Holly's soulful delivery: each audience member must have felt she was singing directly to them. Even so, I salute their sound engineering: for a full blues band it couldn't have been easy suiting volumes to the space without compromising performance: Craig told me he had his bass amp as low as it could be set yet it was still the loudest gig I've heard down there (and I'm certainly not complaining: I was right up by one speaker so might have expected it to be over loud & biased towards only part of the mix, yet it was not so).

The typically eclectic setlist as I say retained many favourites from the duo format Retroville (including the audience participation "Minnie the Moocher":  always a highlight) yet also added many Hounds ones & as usual featured quite a few from the encyclopaedic knowledge of the band members which might have been less known to the crowd: a real ear opener was one slotted in second drop (and not on the printed setlist): "Muddy Water": apparently the most complex to play it also was a real statement of intent showcasing the great strength of Holly's vocal abilities as well as the instrumental prowess of the band.

Another key part of the evening was a magical moment in the second set when "Voodoo Mama" seemed to catalyse something within the band (possibly the power of voodoo itself I wonder) it   and they suddenly erupted into a yet higher gear and roared through the rest of their songs with a clear joy & abandon. I haven't heard Dave "Master of the Telecaster" Page's guitar snarl like that & clearly he relished the freedom the support of a full band gave his playing: indeed a sense of liberation was palpable all evening, something band members confirmed after the gig.

This band is really coming into its own (check out the gigs they are getting & the company they are keeping on their website) & the potential of the venue is being picked up more & more: I commend both to you.

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