I don’t normally go in for what might be termed as tribute bands, but the Hounds Of Love Band sounded like a different proposition, so I decided to take the opportunity to go and see them at the Robin 2 in Bilston last Thursday.
Support for the evening were Groucutt And Haynes, which was fitting as one of their influences is the now departed John Martyn, and they treated us to a wonderful set of acoustic folk. Home Time Tide was bright and melodic with some lovely harmony vocals, and had a sound very like Paul Simon – which was interesting because they then followed it up with a lively cover of his Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard track. Rain is a song about a friend and in a good way reminded me of Sting’s very early solo stuff. Live With Her Now was introduced as “a little jazz song”, and a very pleasant little jazz song it was too. I did not catch the title of the next song, gentle paced, with subdued rather than mournful vocals, which become more powerful and plaintive as the song continues. You Alone is slow and deliberate, and again with some very enjoyable harmony vocals from the pair. Next up was a number for Jack Johnson fans because they have so much fun playing it with the full band, they thought they would try it tonight. I believe they said it was Stay With Me Together, but I may well be wrong, not knowing nearly enough about Jack Johnson – what I do know is that it was a very lively track which worked very well in this acoustic setting. 23 to 1 sees them using a percussive beatbox, which I always find to be very effective, and this is a gentle paced number to enjoy. Stung was their last single, a light and breezy number, a little uptempo, and leads into the faster pace of High On The Time, which finished with something of a ‘drum’ duet – a nice, inventive touch. They end their set with their current single, You Come Alive, another song with a summery feel, latin, mediterranean, very catchy and well worth buying at one of their gigs.
The Hounds Of Love Band are a group of dedicated musicians fronted by vocalist Josie Mills who love and appreciate the work of Kate Bush. They begin with Wow and it is clear from the start that Josie Mills has a wonderful voice. Cloudbusting have a very full sound and seems a bit faster than the original to me, and very impressive drumming through the track. Them Heavy People is great fun and leads straight into Babooshka, which gives a very clear demonstration that Josie is not simply trying to mimic Kate Bush – her voice is slightly lower, softer, and does not have that piercing effect, and as she says in her intro to The Big Sky, she is a fan herself, and for me she is bringing an inventive and interesting persepctive to the vocals, without losing the essence of the songs. The Big Sky is a rousing version with excellent keyboards and is followed by a very mellow The Man With The Child In His Eyes. Mrs Bartolozzi off the Aerial album was a pleasant surprise for me, and accompanied just by the keyboards, allowed Josie to reveal the full quality of he voice. There was some echo effect, and with such a challenging track she hit all the notes while filling it with a mournful emotion. Running Up That Hill has a fuller sound, busier, but not so much of a crescendo and climax. And So Is Love is another surprise choice, but a very welcome performance, with an excellent guitar sound and sensual vocals from Josie. Hounds Of Love is a rocking version, and while I am not convinced the band are taking their backing vocal duties very seriously, it very well fits the fun mood they construct with the track, so fair play to them. I think they were meant to go straight into the next track but the drummer wanted a drink (“it’s not vodka”), and they were probably all glad of a bit of a break as they launch into an epic James And The Cold Gun. The band are loving this one, and especially the grand finale they construct, and there is some breathtaking solo work from both guitarists. They follow it with Moving and then The Red Shoes, with very similar vocals to the original and a perfect tempo throughout. It has been ages since I last listened to Rubberband Girl, and I have to admit this gig sent me back to listen to the original, and what a lovely, bouncy number it is – a great way to end a set.
And it was an inspired choice to begin the encore with And Dream Of Sheep, setting us up nicely for Wuthering Heights, more mellow and laid back than the original to start with, Josie’s vocals absolutely spot on, as they had been all night. This had been a very impressive performance from both Josie and the excellent band with her, they certainly inspired me to go back to the original recordings, and I will be trying to catch them again on this tour.