I have never really thought of a church in Kettering as the rock’n’roll capital of the world but on Friday 11 March 2022 Kettering Arts Centre @ St Andrews Church become a concert venue for one of my favourite bands Empyre.
The stage was set for a wonderful evening of music as Empyre presented their album The Other Side, plus some new songs and a couple of cover versions, in front of an appreciative and extremely supportive audience or should I say congregation.
Underpinned by the solid and hard working drummer Elliot Bale and the driving bass of Grant Hockley, Did Coles and Henrik Steenholdt were able deliver exceptional acoustic guitar work and superb vocals, with Did making an occasional visit to a nearby keyboard. The set was atmospheric and emotional, with Henrik’s vocals soaring towards the rafters and inducing some goose-bump moments, particularly on the piano version of the anthemic Only Way Out.
Before the gig I had a conversation with long standing Empyre supporter Paul Eason and we discussed the merits of an electric set as opposed to an acoustic set, at that stage I was just about more electric than acoustic but having heard the boys in this setting and considered what Paul said I think I now believe that acoustic edges it. The acoustic setting gives more opportunity to enable musicians to show how they can excel without just using a wall of sound and that is exactly what Empyre did…..showed what excellent musicians they all are!
A lot of artists and bands record acoustic versions of their songs but really do nothing different with them than strip out the electric guitars. That’s not the way that Empyre do it. Each song that was electrically recorded for Self Aware is here not just played with the electric guitars stripped out but is also re-interpreted by the band making it stand in its own right and not just an acoustic cover. I have no doubt that this re-interpretation is what makes the experience atmospheric and emotional. It was unusual to hear this sort of stuff in a church but somehow this added to the intimacy of the occasion and the atmosphere of the set.
So why do I like Empyre so much. Difficult to answer that apart from to say that occasionally a band gets under your skin and for me it’s them. I find it difficult to give their music a genre because it seems to cut across so many different genres. But I do think that their music is articulate and intelligent. I have been lucky enough to meet the guys on several occasions, both face to face and by Zoom and it must seem like I am completely sycophantic as I tell them how good they are and how they get better and better. I promise you I am not sycophantic I truly believe that this is a band that should be destined from big time. they deserve, not just on musical merit but also because they are a nice bunch of guys who are always prepared to stop and chat with those supporting them (whether sycophantic or not). If you’ve never heard their music please check out Self Aware and The Other Side.
The set for the evening was as follows:
Cut To The Core
Just A Ride
Titanium (David Guetta cover)
Hit & Run (New song)
Forget Me (New song)
Boys Of Summer (Don Henley cover)
Only Way Out (Piano version)
Road To Nowhere (New song-encore)
Finally I would like to add my thanks to Joe Johnson for allowing me to “borrow” his photographs.
Words by Tony Davis
Photographs by Joe Johnson
March 2022 for 1066 Sound.com