Music | Live Review | The Treetop Flyers + Barna Howard @ 100 Club, London

By Bobby McCarty

The gig at London’s 100 Club on Oxford Street came at the end of the band’s recent spring tour which saw them play at venues across Europe. 100 Club has hosted top billing acts since the 1940’s, their timeline boasts an impressive roster of acts ranging from the Rolling Stones and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, to the Sex Pistols and BB King, making the 100 Club a more than suitable setting to bring a close to the tour.

Supporting act Barna Howard delivered a strong and independent set to open for the Treetops, laying a hearty country foundation for the headliners to build on. His pairing of fingerstyle guitar and a genuine southern drawl took the waiting audience on a modest tour of American nostalgia (Barna grew up in Eureka, Missouri making him a real life, genuine, actual American man). His lament of times-gone-by when life was simpler is something most of us can sympathise with, despite not having been brought up in small-town America. This thought provoking epitaph of a performance made its point; with the right balance of humility and purpose this opening set felt like a welcome change to the usual soundscape of the Big Smoke.

By the time Barna finished his homely half-hour the venue was almost full and as the main act made their final preparations the room once again began to feel like a Soho basement rather than a honky-tonk in Alabama.

The Treetop Flyers then made their full appearance. Though on paper the band are a quintet they actually have a stage presence of six including the newest addition of a bongo player to accompany their drummer, but they play with the synchronicity of a well-practised four piece. The band have reportedly dealt with more than their fair share of adversity leading up to their latest record, but this does not seem or sound like a band who have had turmoil within their ranks, astronomical billing, the grief of loss or any other curveball which fate can throw which can so often spell the end for bands who are lacking in solidarity. On the contrary, The Treetop Flyers play with a unity that bolsters their performance; maybe what I had read had swayed me in my sympathy for their hardships and my appreciation for a band that can sound this good despite their difficulties, but potential survivor bias aside, tight harmonies and the favourable adaptability of the band’s multi-talented members make them a formidable group.

Several times through the gig I reminded myself that I was not actually listening to Neil Young, but with a certain CSNY undertone to the music perhaps if Neil Young were coming up today in the modern age, this may have been the band he would have played with – which, in case it’s not clear, is a huge compliment. Neil Young for ever, keep the dream alive. Even the guitar parts have a tendency develop into something feverish and distorted which the likes of Crazy Horse, who recorded with Young, would no doubt commend.

From time to time the set takes the obligatory solemn turn toward a minor key and lesser tempo to offset the more upbeat numbers, and with this comes a trade off as guitars are swapped and keys are introduced to the mix creating a fuller sound which carries the gig through. Along the way the band seem to indulge their influences; though united by the band’s own prevailing style, the songs they play have elements reminiscent of everything from early Kings of Leon (before they sold their souls and gave everyone aural herpes) to REM’s better tracks.

All things considered the tour ending gig showcased a band brimming with the potential to create sincere art in the fallout of misfortune, something which is missing in today’s climate of instant gratification from formulaic EDM producers and X-Factor ‘pop-stars’. Bands like this which commit to their craft rather than fall in line with overplayed and short-lived trends deserve more than they often get, but that only serves to make their music more valuable in the long run to those who connect with it.