REVIEW: Paul Rhodes’s verdict on The Love Band, featuring Johnny Echols, The Crescent, York, July 2

All you need is Love: The Love Band’s Johnny Echols at The Crescent, York

LOVE inspire something close to religious fervour. Seeing how The Crescent’s full house of all ages responded to the closing track of Forever Changes, You Set The Scene, is now an indelible memory: music, message and audience marching as one.

Love has become the story of Arthur Lee, a protean, iconic figure who fell far before enjoying a belated blast of recognition before leukaemia cruelly stole him away. Bryan Maclean, also now dead, is less feted, but his contrasting songs are essential to Love’s ensuring appeal. One listen to Andmoreagain reveals Maclean as every bit as much of a rule breaker as Lee.

“The Love Band” as they are now known were originally called Baby Lemonade, and they toured with Lee as Love before he died. Taking up the mantle of keeping the music alive, since 2005, four have become five thanks to guitarist Johnny Echols, the other key original member coming back into the fold.

You can debate at what point a group becomes a tribute act, but this concert was about far more than nostalgia. Echols provided a key focal point for the concert, providing occasional between-song stories

Forever Changes has, decades after its release, climbed in regard to nestle among the very best albums of all time. Deservedly so. It captures a glorious burst of creativity that neither Lee and Love, nor arguably anyone else, has matched.

The tension and disharmony that surrounded its recording provided a prescient, apocalyptic but ultimately life-affirming set of songs. However transported by visions Lee may have been, the musicianship keeps pace, full of variety, twists, turns and hooks, psychedelic but still retaining the band’s LA garage roots and a disregard of the rulebook that would become the spirit of punk.

The Love Band is very familiar with the music’s twists and turns, and second guitarist Mike Randell is able to fill some of the key spaces left by the absence of strings and brass. Singer Rusty Squeezebox (born David Ramsey) was a gracious host and carried Lee’s words with skill.

The audience knew in advance this would be good – this band had previously blown the roof off the same venue in 2019. Their Sunday setlist centred on Forever Changes but also included some lesser-sung parts of Love’s catalogue. Tunes like Softly To Me weren’t as strong, but Singin’ Cowboy from Four Sail was a glorious first encore, before bowing to 7 And 7 Is (from De Capo), a powerful song about nuclear war that sounds like nothing else.

There was no way to follow that, but the crowd could certainly face the coming days with a smile after this wonderful show.

Review by Paul Rhodes

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