Easy Life at The Brook, Southampton, 8th October 2022
I had been looking forward to seeing Easy Life at the Brook, primarily because I really like their studio work, but I had been less than impressed by videos I’d seen of their live performances, so I wanted to see for myself. The band is clearly formed around some very talented musicians, who write good songs and do offer a very different sound. However, my hopes for a true live experience were left a little wanting.
The Brook is a perfect venue for this kind of intimate live event. It gives the band a real connection with their fans and lets the fans get close to the musicians because of the unique set up at the Brook. It also has the benefit of a large balcony and plenty of room for people to find the vantage point they feel most comfortable with. Whether that’s right at the front of the stage or sat on bar stools at the back, the high stage ensures a great view for everyone. Not only is the view great, but the sound is the envy of much larger venues. No expense has been spared to make the sound work perfectly. The lighting is also a real bonus of this venue. I regularly photograph bands at The Brook and am always guaranteed of some wonderful photographic lighting. Unfortunately, the promoter of this event, for some unknown reason, wouldn’t allow me to use my professional cameras, so I had to use my simple handheld camera.
Easy Life came on just after 8:15, despite a published start time of 8pm, a minor inconvenience, and there was a full house waiting for them. My enthusiasm was immediately dampened when the backing track started. I had really hoped for a fully live set, but that clearly wasn’t on the cards. I’m not naive enough to think that everything from a studio recording can always be replicated live on a stage, but I suspect that if the backing track had been removed, it would have been a very different experience.
The most enthusiastic member of the band was, without question, Oliver Cassidy on drums. He was clearly enjoying his time on stage, and, halfway through the short set, he even walked round his kit to the front of the stage in an obvious effort to get the crown engaged. He succeeded. The crowd reacted very positively to his enthusiasm, which seemed to be somewhat lacking from the rest of the band.
There was a nice touch during the set when the raffle tickets, which had been given to everyone, resulted in one lucky girl being invited on stage and being given an album, which the band signed for her. Although Murray Matravers (the front man of the band) did smile as he conceded that they were staying after the gig to sign albums for everyone who had paid for that part of the evening.
The set lasted for about 40 minutes, which is what the audience expected, and there was a very welcome, one song encore. It was then time for those who had only paid for a ‘ticket only’ option to leave. Those who paid for the signing part of the evening were allowed to stay to have their merchandise signed by the band. As I had only paid for the gig itself, it was time for me to head out. Unfortunately, no one really knew where they were supposed to go for the signing, other than it was up on the balcony area. Knowing the Brook as well as I do, I know there is a staircase at the back of the room which leads upstairs. The organisers tried to tell people to queue towards those stairs. However, the obvious and main route to the balcony is up the stairs by the main entrance. So, despite shouts from the organisers, it had a feel of an attempt to herd cats. I was quite glad to be heading out.
Once outside I spoke to a couple of Easy Life fans who had very differing views of the show. The guys I overheard were laughing together about the short set, and clearly hadn’t realised the show would be so brief. They were good natured about it and when I chatted with them, they said they’d seen the band previously and were disappointed that some of the music wasn’t live. They wanted to see trumpet and saxophone, as well as a longer set. To be fair, the event was clearly advertised as a signing event with a 40 minute stage set. That didn’t stop the guys I spoke to laughing and saying, “Two stars from me”. To balance the disappointment, I spoke with another couple who were obviously big fans, and were thrilled to have been there, this was the first time they’d seen the band on stage.
In conclusion, the evening wasn’t what I’d hoped for from the band. It lacked some enthusiasm, apart from one or two points in the show, and I was disappointed in how much they relied on pre-recorded tracks. However, there were some real positives. The venue gave a wonderfully intimate feel and had superb sound, which, let’s be honest, is one of the most important things. It’s also great to see bands playing local, intimate shows for their real fans. So many artists who make it to the ‘next level’, often forget their roots, and no longer play at the venues they played before their ‘Glastonbury moment’. So, credit to Easy Life for keeping in touch with the real fans, credit to the organisers, and credit to The Brook.
Photos and review by Peter Nicholson
10th October 2022