Phil Campbell has seemingly come full circle since leaving both The Temperance Movement and The Byson Family, by continuing on the singer/songwriter solo journey he started before joining one of the UK’s new breed of bluesy classic rock artists back in 2011.
While it’s a shame The Temperance Movement never reached the dizzy heights their early material and magical live gigs promised, the singer seems comfortable and content with his current status, and the release of his first solo album under the name Philip Seth Campbell.
Playing more intimate venues than he has been used to for many years, Philip is promoting ‘City Lights’ with a series of low-key dates, just the man and his guitar, with just a bassist and a keyboard player backing him.
Taking to the stage of the smaller community room at The Brudenell Social club, on this the second date of a UK tour, you would be forgiven for thinking the Glaswegian singer had come straight from a do. Wearing an open dress shirt, trousers and trainers Philip Seth Campbell looks like the dishevelled, cool uncle at a family wedding. He and his band then proceed to run through a selection of choice cuts from the new album, older solo material and a couple of tracks each from his former bands.
Opener ‘Magical West’ was the euphoric first single released, and it loses none of its power in this stripped back format. The ever-animated Campbell may be restricted in his movements with a guitar strapped on, but his voice is on point, full of vigour and soul as he rasps his way through each high energy chorus. By the time the trio hit the gospel-tinged third track ‘Revelation’ his voice and the sound mix has certainly hit the sweet spot.
Yet there’s a sense that the singer must work for it tonight, he is certainly not going through the motions. Starting fresh, playing new songs to an audience who may be unfamiliar with the material can be a trial by fire, and while the meagre and polite audience need some well-spirited goading from the singer into breaking the unnerving silence between songs, the whole thing seems to go swimmingly well. He certainly has the stagecraft, the songs and the voice to carry them. But it is nice to see a performer who is nervous and doesn’t know what to expect, deliver in spades.
The anthemic Springsteen vibes of ‘Hasta Luego’ shine strong in a live environment, and the slower soulful moments such as the autobiographical ‘Sober Boy’ sound great. The new songs all fit well with the older material whether that be The Temperance Movement, The Byson Family or older solo stuff such as the sweet ‘Wrecking Ball Nights’, a song he introduces while strumming the opening chords
“Sometimes there’s nothing else for it but to get fucked up!” he declares. He may be a sober and happier boy these days, but he reminds us that things can easily change.
It was a bit of a surprise to hear him break into ‘Chinese Lanterns’. To be fair, I wasn’t really expecting that. It’s always been a favourite TM track since those early shows where Philip would sing it acapella, off-mic to a stunned crowd. Tonight, with an acoustic guitar as accompaniment it is just as special. Another TM classic ‘Lovers & Fighters’ closes a sweet set that satisfies fans both old and new.
I saw The Temperance Movement in this very same venue 10 years ago on their way up, and now it seems quite fitting to see their ex-singer continue his musical journey in fine form. A mesmerising and rewarding set from one of the best singer/songwriters we have to offer and one of the best gigs of the year for me. This could be the start of something special.
Author: Ben Hughes