February 29th in a leap year is, by tradition, the one day where a woman can propose to a man. So there was a neat symmetry that a rare gigging opportunity on this day was for a band both named after a lady character and sporting a female singer, in Romeo’s Daughter.
The date and venue for this London leg of a short UK tour had been rescheduled at least once, and perhaps this, combined with an off-centre location, accounted for a disappointing attendance compared to some of Romeo’s Daughter’s previous shows in the capital.
My first thought on heading towards the front and spying the outline of a set list on stage was that it was a mighty long one and indeed, compared to their last London appearance at the Cancer on the Rocks festival, a generous 90 minute set allowed the band to run through their repertoire in comprehensive fashion.
As the somehow ageless Leigh Matty sidled in from the wings with a big grin on her face, the gig got off to a suitably upbeat start with the Mutt Lange-isms of ‘Heaven In The Backseat’, though that was the one song where the programmed sounds that these days substitute for a live keyboard player were rather too obvious. It was followed by two other rocking old favourites in ‘Attracted To The Animal’ and ‘Velvet Tongue’.
However , material from the two albums RD have recorded since their 2009 reformation has, over the years, become just as impressive a part as their live set. ‘Bittersweet’ had some great melodies, and, though ‘Touch’ and ‘Cannot Be The One’ took a little longer to come to the boil, ‘Radio’ had people swaying along with Leigh to the chorus, and ‘Alive’ was brilliantly catchy.
These are in their own way simple songs, yet so well constructed and executed you cannot help warming to them. An RD gig is a well mannered affair, with Leigh a genial figure. However a mid-song pair of ‘Tripping Out’ and ‘Have Mercy’ (nice to hear a cut other than ‘…Animal’ from the ‘Delectable’ album) had a notably sharper edge not least with Craig Joiner’s guitar solos.
His style may be as unobtrusive as his beanie hat and sweatshirt but the guitarist has the knack of tailoring his tasteful playing to the songs perfectly and is an underrated figure. He also seemed more extrovert than normal, a couple of times crossing over to jam with new bassist, the biker-looking Steve Drennan, who was rather isolated on one side of the wide Nells stage.
As we moved into the closing stages of the gig it was back to familiar favourites with ‘Colour You A Smile’, Inside Out’ featuring a chant along, and Leigh recounting their early history before perhaps their most-loved song in ‘Cry Myself To Sleep At Night’, people roaring the ‘I’m A Romeo’s daughter’ line and a closing solo by Craig superb even by his standards.
However there was a surprise to come as Leigh said that fan pressure had encouraged them to return their very first single ‘Don’t Break My Heart’ to the set and it was a welcome opportunity to hear for the first time in some while, even if the backing vocals of Crag and drummer Andy Wells cut through a little too strongly.
Craig switched to acoustic for the first two songs of the encore in ‘Talking Love’ and ‘Since You Went Away’, the one new song from their recently released acoustic EP ‘Organik’ which had a breezy, folky feel to it. Humorously introduced by Leigh as ‘our most famous song, but not made famous by us’, the traditional closer of ‘Wild Child’, their song which subsequently opened up Heart’s ‘Brigade’ album, then saw the crowd belatedly rock out.
Romeo’s Daughter can appear rather low key and effortless, but to carry that off requires good songs and class playing, all of which were on show here, given scope by the generous setlist. I only hope that Leigh’s mid-song promise that they should play more live shows is one that is fulfilled.
Review and photos by Andy Nathan
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