They might not be the biggest band in the world, but their fanbase is strong and unyielding.
On an evening when the Colston Hall was swamped by middle-aged patrons eager to hear a Michael Palin talk, the Woods show in the building’s subsidiary venue drew a distinctly different crowd. Those who arrived early stuck out like sore thumbs amidst the crowded floorspace.
This was the first time Woods have performed in Bristol without long-time member Kevin Morby – despite claims to the contrary on the Colston Hall website – and first at three-quarter capacity, with one member inexplicably missing for reasons unknown. As a result, the sound was a tad sparser, particularly when Jeremy Earl was on acoustic guitar. But frankly, this is trifling; Woods still hold their own as one of the finest live acts around.
With a set drawn mostly from their two latest albums – 2012’s ‘Bend Beyond’ and this year’s ‘With Light and With Love’ – the trio have clearly shifted their primary focus from psychedelic freak outs of old to vaguely folkish sixties pop numbers (e.g. ‘Cali in a Cup’, ‘Shepherd’). It’s a shame not more material was drawn upon, but with a paltry forty-five minute slot and an intimidating catalogue of releases to choose from, this hardly seems like the greatest offence.
The prolonged jam band sessions still surface occasionally though, such as on the epic ‘Bend Beyond’ – a noise-laden precursor to the song coupled with an extended, trippy mid-section, probably made for the highlight of the show. Perhaps more of the latter would have been preferred, but then a band refusing to alter their methods now and again would come across as stale.
It’s not all bad for Woods then. Their hard work ethic, consistent touring schedule and semi-frequent album releases have really helped in establishing a name for themselves among music communities worldwide. They might not be the biggest band in the world, but their fanbase is strong and unyielding; sold out shows in small to mid-size venues certainly aren’t something to scoff at. Provided the song quality is maintained at the rather high standard they’ve set, I see no reason why this won’t remain the case for a long while yet.
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