Fireworks

Rosalie Cunningham / Goldray Hot

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Rosalie Cunningham / Goldray - The Fleece, Bristol (UK) - 01 August 2019

Although billed as a double headline gig, most of those present were here for the magic carpet ride offered by the prodigiously talented Rosalie Cunningham and her current touring band. Braced, we were, for modern Psychedelic Rock of the highest, brightest and most colourful order, and, to be fair, neither band disappointed.

Goldray, previously reviewed at this venue by yours truly in support of the Von Hertzen Brothers, delivered another strong set exuding not just musical competence but confidence in their musical vision. Former Reef guitarist Kenwyn House has found a perfect foil in vocalist Leah Rasmussen, whose vivid stage presence and incessant movement (including plenty of exaggerated sleeve waving) continued to provide a compelling focal point. "Is she channelling Grace Slick?" asked a friend. I see what he means, although Goldray's particular brand of riff-driven Psychedelic Rock is heavier, darker and more modern; pleasingly groovy and edgy in equal parts. The four-piece worked their way through a set of established and new tracks, with stand outs including 'Diamond Road' (from 2017's 'Rising') and new track 'The Forest', with its neat paces changes, superb vocals and 1970's Rainbow feel, from the forthcoming 'Feel The Change' release. In fact, all the new material sounds fresh and exciting and augers well for the new album. Goldray are a band to keep your eye on, for sure, and, for purposes of the evening, they were well-paired with Rosalie and her troupe of travelling minstrels.

Rosalie's set largely showcased her eponymous debut album – as one would hope and expect – with a few well-chosen Purson tracks thrown in for good measure. 'Desire's Magic Theatre' was powerful and a clear audience pleaser, while 'The Sky Parade' and 'Tragic Catastrophe' (the latter of which was a fine set closer), are strong reminders of the wealth of high-quality material that Rosalie can draw on from recent past endeavours to boost her solo venture. Also included was 'Chocolate Money', introduced by Rosalie as "a posthumous Purson single that no one really knew about".

Album opener 'Ride On My Bike' kicked off the live set too. 'Dethroning Of The Party Queen' followed. "Are they British or Californian?" I heard someone ask; not an unfair question given guitarist Rosco Levee's moustache and hat and the assortment of hippy stage gear before us. There is an unmistakable British whimsy in the songwriting though (that emerges again in 'House Of The Glass Red'), and a sense of modern realism in 'Fuck Love', for example, that clearly separates the vibe from the American West Coast scene of yore.

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While on the album 'Nobody Hears' introduces a Kate Bush-like eccentricity and is one of its quieter moments, in the live setting it has a rockier feel that works. Live performance also boosts the already raucous 'Riddles And Games' which, if anything, exudes even more of the raw Deep Purple 'In Rock' vibe that makes that song so exciting. Here, and throughout, Rosco Levee's guitar work enhanced and embellished without ever intruding or eclipsing.

The rest of the band also played their part. Lee Spreadbury, resplendent in an open kaftan that exhibited a bold turquoise cross on his chest (matching the smaller version on his face) engaged in some impressive gurning but made sure that he was on the money when he needed to be and that his keyboards were right at the heart of the party. The interaction between Spreadbury and bass player Alpha Michelle is joyful, and there's also clear musical chemistry between Cunningham and Levee. Raphael Mura on drums is reliably solid, bringing with him enough Purson experience to hold the whole thing together. The cohesive rendition of near fourteen-minute album closer 'A Yarn From The Wheel' speaks volumes for the way the band appears to have gelled on tour.

If the songs, performance and presentation were top notch (and they were), one slight area of concern was the sound. "If it's too loud, you're too old", says the well known t-shirt, but actually too much volume is not always a good thing. On this particular occasion, while some may feel it added to the power and energy of the band's delivery, at times it seemed to me to mess with the mix a little and mask some of the subtlety and complexity of the arrangements. I would also have liked an encore, whether it had been the gentle 'Butterflies', the only track not played from the new album, or the Purson classic 'Spiderwood Farm' (I'm guessing that curfew rules prevented the band returning to the stage, though, in fairness, they did stick around, mingle and sign for a largely delighted audience.)

Not even my "picky" sound observations should detract from what was an enormously enjoyable evening and a very well received performance. With a great new album in the bag and a touring band who can help her do it justice, Rosalie Cunningham's star is once again rising. Turn on and tune in, dudes.

Michael Anthony

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