Heading out on the road in support of their forthcoming and long awaited second album, Tales From Terra Firma, Stornoway returned to home soil for two packed out dates at Oxford’s Town Hall this week. But after taking such a long time to come back with new material, does it live up to the promise of Beachcombers Windowsill?
If you bought into Stornoway’s melodic, guitar driven folk-pop with its strong harmonies and catchy riffs, you could be in for something of a shock. Set against the likes of Fuel Up, I Saw You Blink and Here Comes The Blackout, at times tonight the new tracks seem a whole world away, rising into an experimental cacophony of instrumental noise which overpowers one of the band’s greatest assets – Brian’s voice. It’s as if someone has sat them down, told them they need to progress the sound, and they’ve responded by throwing everything but the kitchen sink into their live show.
With that being said though, there are still some glimmers of the old Stornoway to be heard in amongst the new tracks. Farewell Appalachia and an unplugged performance of The Ones We Hurt The Most from the balcony at the start of the encore both show off the bands thoughtful lyrics and powerful vocal harmonies. The latter brings the entire hall to a hushed and respectful standstill, followed by a much deserved rapture of adoring applause.
Of course, it’s never easy to come back with new material, especially to a crowd that have been there from the start. It was always inevitable that the likes of Zorbing and The Cold Harbour Road would steal the show. Tonight reconfirms for me all of the reasons the band have made it this far, and everything I love about them. It’s just a shame that the new material seems at times to have moved so far away from the signature Stornoway sound.