Reverend And The Makers – Bush Hall – 22.03.18

“Good evening, London. Bit fucking posh, this.” Even in a room with hanging chandeliers and antique mirrors adorning the walls, Jon McClure isn’t holding his Ps and Qs. And why should he? Despite the grand old interior of Bush Hall – and the promise of a few pretty grand surprises – this is in essence a Reverend and The Makers gig, with a room full of their fans. In fact, the biggest surprise is probably the fact that the gig has an interval. (“Me nanan used to go to things that had intervals,” Jon later tell the crowd, before taking advantage of a rare mid-gig fag break.)

The surprises (not surprises as such – they were advertised on the posters, but they’re surprising additions to a Revs gig) come in the form of brass and string sections and a gospel choir. McClure refers to the extra additions as being “like winning a competition or some shit” for the songs written about their lives. Proof, not that it’s needed one iota, that despite 6 top 20 albums over the last decade, this is a band with their feet firmly planted on the ground, fronted by a man of the people. It should therefore come as no surprise that Reverend and The Makers have been announced for Jezza Corbyn’s upcoming Labour Live day festival.

Before the violins, trumpets or even the rest of the band take to the stage, Jon and fellow-founding member Ed Cosens kick of proceedings alone. Jon’s quick to assert the importance of Ed in the band’s history (“I used to be a bit big headed….”), explaining how they both grew up in Sheffield; Ed from the posh bit, The Rev not so much. Within the first track, they have the crowd joining in, and any uncertainty about seeing the band at a seated venue disappears.

The rest of the band soon take their places – Jon’s wife Laura McClure on piano, Milburn frontman Joe Carnall on bass and former thisGIRL drummer Ryan Jenkinson on drums – and the evening quickly becomes one huge magic roundabout of line-ups, with the strings, brass and choir taking turns to join in, giving some of the lesser known numbers a rare outting in all their glory. In some ways it’s as if they’ve brought their own fancy open mic night down to that London for an evening.

Laura joins in on the vocals for a stripped back He Loves Me, later taking centre stage – joined by the brass section – for Black Flowers (from last year’s The Death of a King), showcasing an impressive vocal with a James Bond theme-like track. The Gun also gives the brass a chance to shine, the likeness of the pink elephant sequence from Disney’s Dumbo not unnoticed by Jon (“If you think I’ve ripped it off, I have…”), while the choir join in on new track Victory March. If the Rev gets his way, they’ll be joining in on the studio version too.

Early favourites Open Your Window and Heavyweight Champion Of The World appear later, both featuring just band members, with the audience more than making up for the lack of any electronics, before Silence Is Talking is mashed up with The BeatlesTomorrow Never Knows to ensure that, while it’s been a more subdued evening in general, the ending is pure euphoria. And if that wasn’t enough for Jon or the audience, he marches through the crowd, guitar in hand, to give a couple of tracks outside. The man of the people, again; the reverend on the streets, his congregation on the same level. On Hard Time For Dreamers (from 2009’s A French Kiss In The Chaos) Jon and the gospel choir sang about the horrors “if the Tories get back in”. After proving that his roots aren’t moved by impressive buildings in the capital, perhaps the Rev’s what’s needed to get them back out.

We chatted with Jon about the band’s back catalogue and each album opener for a future Side One Track One. Make sure you’re following TRASH to be the first to see it.

Cover photo: Roger Sargent.

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