Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The London Souls at the Bowery Ballroom

Tash Neal
New York City native Tash Neal sang and played guitar since childhood. At age 15, he discovered classic rock and this new passion for a basic guitar, bass and drums trio felt more engaging than the hip hop he heard on the streets of Harlem. He bonded with a bassist and a drummer from the local music scene who also had a passion for British hard rock bands. Together they formed a band in 2008, taking their name from the country of their influence. The London Souls performed for the first time on stage in 2008 after having only been able to rehearse via cell phones. The London Souls released a self-titled debut album in 2011, and recorded a second album a year later. Tragedy then struck. Neal was in a taxi that was hit by a drag racer. Neal woke up in a hospital bed in critical condition after a week-long medically-induced coma and multiple brain surgeries. Doctors believed it would take up to a year before Neal could walk and talk normally again. Less than five months after the crash, Neal was back on stage, playing a concert. The London Souls became a duo, pairing Neal with drummer/vocalist Chris St. Hilaire. The band's second album, Here Come the Girls, was released today.

At the Bowery Ballroom tonight, the London Souls made more sound than one could expect from two musicians. The duo reached back to the very earliest days of hard rock, sounding very much like late 1960s Cream, the Who and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The melodies sounded like what British bands did back then to American blues and pop, with fast and fierce guitar leads and whirling drum patterns filling out the songs bombastically between lyrics. The London Souls did this authentically, with all the volume, power and fuzzy distortion of the band's pioneering predecessors. No synthesizers, no pre-recorded tape loops; the only thing relatively new was the billowing dry-ice fog. Highlights included "Alone", "All Tied Down", "When I'm With You", the fast-then-slow medley of "The Sound" and "Sweet Thang," plus a reinterpretation of the Beatles' "Get Back" with a slice of the Who's "Magic Bus." Hard rock does not get more Woodstock-era than that.

Visit the London Souls at www.thelondonsouls.com.