Eight months ago John and Jacob returned to Manchester for the second time in their short yet burgeoning career. The summer was proving to be a hot one. Glastonbury was just round the corner and they had been invited out on the road by country’s latest superstar, Kacey Musgraves. Performing at The Ritz in front of a lively, sold out crowd, they initially appeared to be dwarfed by the large stage. Very quickly though, the duo’s impressive energy developed and spread through the venue and by the time their short set was over, the boys from Alabama appeared to have won over a whole room full of new fans who had become hooked on their infectious tunes and youthful exuberance.
Fast forward to tonight and John Davidson and Jacob Bryant are back in a slightly chillier Manchester. An eponymously titled debut album was released in the autumn, featuring many of the popular songs performed at The Ritz back in June and this short tour represents their first opportunity to promote the album and even try out a few new songs as well. A sold out show at Camden’s Barfly preceded the journey up the M6 and I was excited to experience another ebullient performance from the boys despite the lack of a full band, which has certainly added a grittier dimension to their sound on record.
Unfortunately nobody seemed to tell the rest of Manchester just how good John and Jacob are and when Essex openers Holloway Road completed their enjoyably diverse and industrious brand of country-infused indie pop, the Night and Day cafe was still under-populated and distinctly lacking the atmosphere that the boys had described to me when discussing the previous night’s gig in London. The show must go on though and following a brief introduction after ambling onto the stage, the duo break into the opening chords of Do Me Like You Do. The song encapsulates the close friend’s stage dynamic, with vigorous acoustic rhythms complimenting one another and vocal duties shifting impressively as the song progresses. This is swiftly followed by a Ride With Me, which is a particularly upbeat highlight of the album. Performed without the band, the song still manages to retain it’s buoyancy despite being stripped bare of the percussive elements that drive it on the record. Texture is added by John’s harmonica and the pair’s impressive guitar skills come to the fore holding it all together with the help of the audience towards the front of the stage. People apparently give a song just seven seconds before changing a radio station if it hasn’t grabbed them. This should never happen with a song like Ride With Me. It contains all the right hooks in all the right places and is performed with gusto tonight. It’s the perfect pop song and in a different venue would have really got the crowd off their feet. Sadly tonight, this is not to be the case. The crowd are massively appreciative but just too small to generate the energy that the boys feed off.
We are treated to a few new tracks tonight including Probably Chemistry, which prompts a myriad of potential influences to spring to mind during the opening few seconds, including most surprisingly David Lee Roth’s Sensible Shoes and then The Knack’s My Sharona during the first verse, before it establishes it’s own personality, providing an opportunity for the Night and Day faithful to get involved as well.
One thing that must be particularly galling for a performer is the sound of people not listening. Night and Day shows have suffered from this in the past and once again tonight a table of people sitting reasonably close to the stage were too self-consumed to realise that they were disturbing the performance. Thankfully, John and Jacob were able to go to several tracks off the album which warrant your attention. Breaking the Law possesses the spirit of The Beach Boys and it’s incredibly how dynamic two acoustic guitars can actually be. Think About You and I’d Go Back quickly follow, demonstrating their ability to write incredibly catchy hooks with gloriously expressive harmonies that you find yourself humming days later.
Of course, the big break came for the friends when the final track of the night, Be My Girl was picked up and performed on the ABC show Nashville. It’s certainly a great way to end the night, giving Jacob another opportunity to compliment the acoustic guitars with his gloriously rich trumpet solo and by the end of the night the duo appear incredibly grateful to be given the opportunity to play their songs to fans who really appreciate their sound, no matter how many are present. The quality of the new songs was really satisfying and suggest that although there weren’t many in attendance, those that were there will probably talk about the time they saw those famous Alabama boys John and Jacob in a tiny venue in Manchester.
John and Jacob
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Review and Photos by Iain Fox | @iainafoxphoto