Live at Bush Hall revisits a night on tour by British pop-rock band the Moons, a band member’s birthday, and an evening of rough seas, fraught with technical obstacles overcome. For a band who doesn’t have a lot of live “bootleg” material plastered all over the internet, a live album is a good way to hear what it sounds like outside the recording studio. It’s a good way of figuring out their capabilities of gelling or meshing well as a band.
Fortunately Live at Bush Hall‘s recording has a very nice mix and great audio quality, so it’s easy to hear their musicianship and sound. This is a band who sounds enthused, cool, and collected, onstage to deliver the goods. The Moons have a sound more analogous to a band who knows it’s members have practiced enough, put in their 10,000 hours, and are secure knowing they can do their job well. The band allows its energy to swell, ebb, and flow, sounding tight and locked in.
The accessible set has a certain charm and charisma that really can only be obtained in a live, ‘everyone together’ setting. The overall impression is a well-oiled machine, delivering the best music it’s capable of. Definitely not phoned in, the performance has so many of the factors a connoisseur of live music will enjoy: elements of humanity like a slight swing in the beat, improvised jam parts, little changes to verses, tempo changes to songs, or toil and grit in the lead vocal. Overall, the best thing is that Live at Bush Hall captures a band’s very essence or lifeblood: the unison of differing parts. The sum here is uniformly greater: each member’s contribution is heard and serves to elevate the material.
Sonic influences are plural and varied. It’s a little bit of the Kinks here, a lot of the Beatles there, some Rolling Stones here, a tad of the Doors there. The glam swagger of David Bowie, and a little bit of the folk tradition also make their presence known. Firmly rooted in classic and British pop-rock, the Moons encapsulate mid-1960s through early 1970s rock very well, throwing only minor modern twists on arrangements or layers. The sound is honest: this isn’t million-dollar bubblegum hit pop. It’s music made for the cathartic joy of creating and delivering music.
The all-original, no covers set starts almost like a studio album, with Luke Goddard’s psychedelic synth and keyboards. The monster hooks and jangly lead guitar in the first full tune of the evening, “Forever Came Today”, coupled with a warm, clean mix, draw the ear immediately. Lead vocalist Andy Crofts’s rock ‘n’ roll character voice adds emphasis on chorus and verse alike, especially during “Promise Not to Tell”. Vocal harmonies during “English Summer” snapshot the band as a tight, unison unit. Early on, the band sets itself apart from retro bar band masses by using synth, organ, keyboard, 12-string guitar, and acoustic guitar accent layers, adding significant depth to the sound. The rhythm section, of Ben Curtis on bass guitar and Ben Gordelier on drums, really starts to stand out during the doubled ‘trot’ beat and tempo switch motif in “Bodysnatchers”, a swaggering rocker that, like “Heart and Soul” which follows, surely gets the audience moving. Said audience cheerily sings “Happy Birthday” to guitarist Chris Watson, and the night carries on. Other highlights include the uptempo, slightly shadowy, harder rockers “Society” and “It’s Taking Over”, and the solo acoustic guitar and vocal showcase ballad “Jennifer Sits Alone”. As the set began, so it ends, now with “Don’t Go Changin'”, a catchy rocker on a lively, energetic plane. A flourishing coda finishes the set.
Live music is about energy, atmosphere, and catching a moment in time, not so much about perfection. The Moons have captured the intensity of their live show on record with Live at Bush Hall for fans to enjoy. While not an ecliptic show, it is a glowing point of light in an ethereal sea of darkness. The band cranks through its set, struggling through exploding amplifiers, other technical difficulties, and vocal strain to engage a rapt yet wild audience. And the band succeeds. It’s not perfect, not “too precious”, just great, slightly raw, live rock ‘n’ roll.