LIVE REVIEW: Rolo Tomassi, Holy Fawn, Heriot, Electric Ballroom, London 15/02/2023
Photo Credit: Andy Ford
South Yorkshire has a rather rich musical history, including the likes of Pulp, Def Leppard, Heaven 17 and The Human League, not to mention the writers of certified banger Living In A Box from the album Living In A Box by Living In A Box. In the 21st century it has given us big acts like Bring Me The Horizon and Arctic Monkeys as well as the likes of Self Esteem, but arguably most musically challenging and underappreciated of them all was playing the Electric Ballroom on Wednesday 15th February 2023.
Heriot started the night with the force of an ominous, out of control locomotive. The guitar tone they have sounds like a chainsaw being wielded by an angry HR manager, and Debbie Gough’s vocals are delightfully demonic, not to mention her ridiculously good playing. Erhan Alman on guitar is an imposing presence too. Their sound is like being chopped in half whilst being kicked squarely in the plums at the same time. There was a moment where a guitar just cut out, the band stopped and Gough said the politest sorry you will hear this side of a high-class butler. Styling out this stoppage by just being normal people, the band wins over even more of this very keen crowd. When they are able to continue, the band’s wallop is not lost, and the momentum is fully regained. Their headline tour is looking like a must watch at this point. A superb way to start an evening. 8/10
Holy Fawn followed, and for those reading who aren’t familiar, they are very much in the more shoegazey end of things, their sound live resembling a large crashing wave, or the slow stampede of rush hour commuters that are a little bit too impatient to let anyone off the train first. Supporting their excellent 2022 album every note from their guitars hit the exact spot we all want to hit. Holy Fawn were an excellent booking, but we would be lying if we said the show was a total package, and unfortunately some sound issues prevented the show from being the full-fledged hit it should have been. It’s very hard to engage with the large amount of ethereal soft vocals if the words being sung are impossible to make out because the mic was mixed too low compared to the wall of everything else. A real pity, as the band sounded massive and all-encompassing apart from that, and they won over many admirers regardless. Check out their last record Dimensional Bleed if you haven’t. 7/10
Rolo Tomassi walk on the stage in a very understated way for their biggest headlining show in the UK. No grand entrance, and with the way they are as a band, that probably would have seemed a bit ridiculous to change their entire persona for the night. Opening with Almost Always, a slow building, shimmering song, Tomassi set the mood for their show with aplomb. Going straight into the next track off Where Myth Becomes Memory, Cloaked keeps the momentum high and strong. Eva Korman’s stage presence is this unique mix of aggressive hardcore frontwoman and contemporary dancer headlining the latest production at Sadler’s Wells. Korman glides through the walls of sound, expertly switching between vocal styles and body language like the seasoned veteran she is. Her brother James Spence on the keyboards and vocals is excellent throughout too, occasionally tag teaming frontperson duties with his sister.
The stage production was simple and effective, backdrops highlighting their most recent (and best) albums. Powerhouse drummer Al Pott puts in a fearsome shift, only growing stronger throughout the set like a video game boss, seemingly hitting twice as hard as the show continues. Nathan Fairweather on the bass also cuts a really striking presence.
This set had many wonderful moments not least, but the absolute highlight was the majestic build and release of Contretemps from their 2018 masterpiece Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It. It’s also lovely to see a band shout out their family members in attendance, as the band do near the end of the show. As many of us have learnt from both our own lives and that of Vin Diesel in the fast saga, family is incredibly important. Closing song Drip, with its long, increasingly aggressive intro, is an excellent way to crown off a confident, polished, technically excellent performance from a band that, for whatever reason have never quite got the love their talent has merited for so long. All five members of Tomassi seem to go even harder on this song than before and bring the show to a charged end.
A unique band that blend so many styles and influences together, Rolo Tomassi have long deserved the attention of everyone that wants their music to make them feel like they are floating on clouds one minute, and slaying demons the next, because they have mastered this blend like a pretentious coffee brand. “If you keep buying tickets, we will keep coming back” is not only a lovely statement from the band, but one that demonstrates more economic credibility than most politicians ever could. A special, special band whose long career can still only be moving on up. 9/10
Written by: Louis Tsangarides