Howie Payne’s gigs of late have been one-man shows. So when Howie announced that he was doing his first full-band live show at the one hundred and eighty capacity venue, the Old Queens Head; this show sold out instantly. The irony is that The Stands whom Payne is most well-known for were a four-piece band yet at the Old Queens Head Howie was part of a five-piece band.
The hype and the atmosphere had much time to elevate (partly owing to their being no support acts). The intimacy of the venue and shared excitement of Howie having recently dropping new track “Into Daylight” along with promises of a new solo LP to be released later on this year fuelled elation. It is difficult to believe that 2020 is the fifteenth anniversary since The Stands released their second and final LP Horse Fabulous. What brought this fact home (inducing halcyon memories at the Old Queens Head) was Payne beginning the set with “Do It Like You Like?” as he did fifteen years ago when he toured the Horse Fabulous LP with The Stands. “Do It Like You Like?” proved to be, as it was back in 2005 the right first single to release from The Stands second LP and the ideal, catchy up-tempo number to galvanise a crowd. In less than five minutes Payne has transported his fans a decade and a half back into the past when The Stands were peaking.
From “Do It Like You Like?”, Howie went straight into his solo material from his Mountain LP. A change in musical direction was noticed on certain songs with Temples psychedelic influences as well as unexpected and indirect influences from Oasis’ Heathen Chemistry LP. Furthermore “The Brightest Star” saw Payne make superb use of the piano inducing melancholy emotions. “Some Believer, Sweet Dreamer” drew influences from The Stands “It’s Only Everything” with possibly accidental, yet highly effective soft soul and funk demonstrating that Payne has evolved as a songwriter. Howie also showed he could generate continued interest in his music as he played ‘Into Daylight’, a song he premiered little over a week ago. Sounding heavier than the recorded version, one could see “Nearer than Green” influences as well as Paul Weller Heliocentric and From the Floorboards Up sounds. Despite being under two and a half minutes long; Payne was right to blow his own trumpet summing up ‘Into Daylight’ as “short but action-packed”.
Vocally Howie remains unchanged balancing the ideal intermedium between the folk raspiness of Bob Dylan and the indie gloriousness of fellow Liverpudlian John Power (Cast, The La’s). Payne’s new backing band equally deserve credit. Introducing a female band member on lead backing vocals who trebled up as organist and percussionist made the Howie Payne/The Stands experience sound almost new rather than just continuous.
Naturally with The Stands being Payne’s most acclaimed project; a significant amount of the All Years Leaving and Horse Fabulous back catalogue was plugged by Howie which was applauded by the Old Queens Head. “Here She Comes Again”, a deft extended rendition of “Soon Come” and “Always is the Same/Shine On” continued to demonstrate Payne’s folk and troubadour-like qualities. “The Way She Does”, the almost five and a half minute playout classic to All Years Leaving was extended further and not just Howie’s musicianship was demonstrated (through advanced guitar riffs and solos); but the collective bands’ adroitness (with impressive and unassuming drum loops) proved mesmerising. Following an extremely short encore, Howie played out with a cover of The Bands’ classic “The Weight”.
Howie’s full band performance proved that he could still make a sound rooted in the mid-noughties sound fresh and innovative with the potential to continuously evolve and invoke elation. However with the set lasting just under an hour; it was far too short. Nonetheless, with a new backing band, new material on the way and a relevant back catalogue; hopefully we will see more of Howie for longer periods of time.