Review by Clare Knight
I was more than happy to head down to St Pancras Old Church in London to watch my friends in Farewell J.R play their headline show and aside from it being a nice little reunion with my friends, it was also great to finally catch the band perform live having only heard their music through my speakers.
Turning up at the somewhat abandoned-looking dark church and wondering if we were at the right place or not definitely set the atmospheric vibe for the evening. Communion Music put on the gig and I have to say the venue was amazing and much more interesting than numerous venues that I have been to lately. The chairs were set up in rows, people were quietly drinking beer, looking at the merchandise and at the stage, which was covered in a range of instruments and creatively doused in blue lighting.
The support acts playing on the night were Osian Rhys and Ottilia. We arrived just as Osian was finishing his set but managed to catch all of Ottilia’s. She had a great voice and was a little rough around the edges, which reminded me of a blend of Lana Del Rey and Lissie. It was impressive how she could play most of a song with one note on the guitar and use her powerful lyrics to keep everyone interested.
When Farewell J.R took the stage with all six band members the audience were ready to hear their music reverberate around the echoing church. What I was not expecting was the amazing wall of sound that we got when they kicked into their first song. With Sam McNicholl on drums/percussion, Josh Sampson on drums, Sonny Sampson on bass and guitar, Tom Greenwood on keys and guitar, Mel Draisey on violin and front man Nick Rayner on guitar (not to mention all of them singing) it’s not surprising! The set was filled with sounds reminiscent of Sigur Rós and Fleet Foxes but always found it’s way back to the sound of Farewell J.R and Nick’s unique voice. It is clear that they are a talented band of musicians with a talented songwriter at the helm. Nick Rayner’s vocals were deep and melancholy but were beautifully balanced with the soaring harmonies brought in by the band throughout the set.
I found myself watching each band member individually for a while at a time because each musician was completely lost in the music and they were clearly enjoying playing at the stunning venue. Nick had an understated but strong presence as a front person and having just toured with Maps & Atlases, it shows that the band have honed their performance to perfection with their slick transitions between songs and instruments. Seeing the band perform live really brought the songs to life as is the case with most bands, but Farewell J.R had that little something extra when they performed their songs.
Speaking to Nick afterwards he said that he consciously tried to make the live show as close to the record as possible, which in a sense he did but personally I think it went above and beyond the record. The combination of the venue and the music was perfectly intimate yet sonically epic! It wasn’t surprising that the single Night Wolves received cheers when it was announced it was the next song in the set, but getting an equal amount of appreciation was the encore song that Nick performed by himself. After demands for more songs from the audience Nick graciously returned to stage to perform another song. In this slightly underground setting with people drinking cans of beer in an old church whilst respectfully listening to a band play music, it really was the perfect way to bring the night to a close.