It could be New York, London or Paris. The venue’s in a different part of town, so it feels like I’m hunting down a secret location, but in the end it’s easy to find - a surprise hidden behind a car showroom in an alley.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained…
There was a good buzz about this gig; the event promos are slick, and they promise talent and that extra je ne sais quoi you get in a show run by people who are serious about their music and know what they are doing.
It’s a classic music venue, a few people hanging around for last cigarettes, a short queue for tickets and coat check, friendly security and you’re through. The door opens and you’re looking into a darkened rectangular space with the stage at the far end. The walls are brought to life with vivid visuals, and a long bar stretches along the left wall.
My ticket comes with a free drink, the bar staff are fast and friendly, so I’m stood with a cold beer as I mingle and wait for the first act.
I’m immersed from the start…
Adeline. Despite her reputation, I’d never seen her live yet. A folk-influenced singer / songwriter who’s been on the Barcelona scene for a while and has a steady following. She takes the stage, a petite blonde who looks immediately comfortable. She doesn’t chat too much, just starts to play her guitar and sings. She comes across as a seasoned pro and instantly, you know you’re in safe hands.
And that’s it - you’re in her world now, and she’s intriguing.
Soft-spoken lyrics with melodic lines that invite you to lean into each song. There’s real power in her voice too – used sparingly and effectively. I wasn’t prepared for this kind of engagement, and the early crowd are hanging on her every word and chord change. Then she breaks into French and I melt. She shaped the atmosphere in that room and I loved it. More than anything, she’s got that something a bit special, and it’s captivating. She played a great set and left me wanting more.
It’s a great start to the evening and Adeline has already set a relaxed tone in the room before the second act.
Zaq Squares. He’s a dominating presence on stage and warms up with some melancholy sounds, that voice starts to envelop you with its warmth. His songs are dynamic, alternately calm and folksy, and energetic with a rhythmic, slightly alternative edge. It’s a touch understated, you can tell he’s keeping his powder dry.
Then Santo comes on. As towering as Zaq is, Santo is slight, but his impact is immediate.
He’s a master of “less is more” accompaniment, just adding sophisticated, complimentary touches and filling out the sound. Rhythmic synth stabs play off Zaq’s strumming patterns. The set is building....
The next few songs are more guitar-based, with Santo’s twangy electric riffs with heavy effects are hanging in the air as Zaq delivers rich vocals that take you in like a huge bear hug. There’s also spacious quality in the music allowing time for the sound to resonate and grab hold of you, like a film soundtrack. Zaq creates a whole new atmosphere and the crowd is, unmistakably, INTO IT.
I know Zaq and Santo haven’t been playing together long, but you’d never tell. They have a great understanding on stage. They rattle through a Tom Waits cover and Santo disappears. Zaq’s going to finish off solo, and he’s been saving the best for last. His voice is going big and the crowd’s impressed. They aren’t going to let him finish there – a big cry for an encore – and he’s got one more for us. The set was a journey, and I’m converted.
Why am I enjoying this so much?
Firstly, it’s a music venue, there’s no silly chair and table set-up, there’s nothing to detract from the event – no pool table or large TVs, there are unobstructed views of the stage from the whole room. The walls are now part of this, the visuals will suck you in if you let them, but everything is drawing your attention to the stage.
Then there’s the sound. Oh, the SOUND is SO GOOD! This is a brand new, high-end system and wow, can you tell the difference! I’ve heard so many people playing through a bar system no bigger than a home stereo and it kills the performance. You know there’s good music, but you can’t really hear it and it’s competing with people chatting too loudly because they’re not engaged. It’s painful for the artist and the music lover alike.
Because this is how it should be… I saw the word “immersive” in the promo and now I understand. I’m not distracted, the bar is keeping me refreshed with barely any wait and the bathrooms are decent and large enough to handle the crowd, another problem with urban venues.
Here, there is NOTHING is getting in the way of my gig experience!
It’s not over until the powerhouse sings…
And boy, is the show NOT OVER! The headliners take the stage, and with this chilled out crowd it’s going to be a fun ride.
Liam Cloud and the Band. For those who don’t know Liam, he’s young, talented, and one of the-hardest working musicians in Barcelona. The Voice happens to be part of his journey, but he’s way more than that. The evolution over the last two years has been breakspeed and I think he’s truly found his voice. Beyond the pop / R´n´B / smooth sound, he’s achieved a more mature sound with mad guitar chops and an incredibly versatile voice.
I’ve seen him in some of the bigger venues around town, and truthfully, most of those other places just don’t do him justice. This is different, and Liam is like a kid in a candy store, ready to deliver big.
For Front Page News, Liam’s got his favourite backing band and it shows. Bryan Curtis on drums, Stephen Gentillalli on bass and Dylan Charbeneau on keys...
Bryan Curtis has got so many styles that he’ll often surprise you with the beats he chooses. But it’s dynamic and driving, absolutely precise with power on tap. Given a bit of free rein in the last few songs, he really brings it, but it’s never too much.
That subtle bass is the sign of someone who understands how the bass ties the rhythm section to the melodic half of the band. Stephen Gemillalli nails each and every song down to the grittiest and subtlest grooves Bryan lays down. Stephen’s the one making your heads to bop. There’s fun thrown in as well, the final few songs saw him cutting loose a little more, it kicked those songs up a notch and made them really danceable.
So THIS is what a powerhouse sounds like…
With the rhythm section sorted, Liam’s guitar switches easily from strumming to lead and catchy riffs, a natural counterpoint to his singing, that boy’s got serious tone and range. Behind him, filling out the melody sound is Dylan. He’s got this understated class to his playing, there’s nothing over the top, no showing off (although he’s clearly a very technically gifted player), it’s unobtrusive and tasteful.
This may have been the best I’ve ever seen them play, they’re so tight and professional now, it’s the perfect backing for Liam to continue to grow and impress.
What the musicians had to say…
Still buzzing from the show, I spoke to all the musicians to ask them what their impressions were, and I can tell you they enjoyed it as much as I did. I told them how good they sounded, and without exception they said that the monitors on stage meant they could hear themselves properly. Again, that’s just not how it is in many music bars.
This means they can play better, hear each other better, and enjoy themselves more. And that enjoyment is what we’re picking up on in the crowd, and why we’re getting the best out of the gig.
“Champagne music experience for beer money!”
With the sound system delivering a full range with superb articulation, you could pick out individual parts, from the drums, the bass, keys, guitar and voice. The mix was spot on thanks to the venue’s sound engineer who impressed all night.
I already expected to enjoy Liam and the band, but Adeline and Zaq were also excellent so the whole night worked together as an experience.
Walking the few minutes back to the metro afterwards, everyone was saying similar things, and it felt like we’d seen the start of something a bit special, and distinctly better than other gigs and venues.
There’s no secret to this formula, every city with a decent music scene has a venue where musicians enjoy playing and real music-lovers want to see them. And this is how it should be. I’m going to a proper gig, with real artists, who are getting paid properly, in a dedicated venue with a decent sound system and professional team.
And THAT, my friends, is well worth the entrance fee and twenty-minute metro ride on the Red Line!
Wait til you see what's next ...
Kid Hyena are edgy and funky and weird (but cool weird!), Liam’s coming back, and local heroes Chino & the Big Bet pack places across Europe with a high-octane rock’n’roll show – so I, for one, can’t wait for June 1!