The first thing I have to ask, is how does a virtually unknown band from Utah sell out another UK tour, with seemingly no radio airplay here and no obvious marketing machine? One of the answers can be found looking at the demographic of tonight’s audience at Birmingham’s Academy 2 room: they are 99% under 25 years of age. I am used to being one of the oldest people at a gig, but apart from the sound engineers, I must be the only person here over 35. This proves that music is consumed differently by young people in this country now.
I know that The Backseat Lovers have millions of streams on digital platforms, so their music is definitely getting heard around the world, but entire older generations of music lovers are missing out on what I believe is the best band in the world right now. And what is most interesting about this puzzle is that the music of The Backseat Lovers and their look, is inspired by artists of the early 1970’s, all folk-rock, long hair and moustaches, jeans and T-shirts… people my age would love this band! It’s almost as if their huge record label (Capital/Polydor/Universal Music Group) don’t know how to sell The Backseat Lovers to a larger audience and are happy with just the youth of today digging the band.
This promotional tour is for their new album “Waiting to Spill” (released in 2022). They had previously released a live album in 2021, so I knew how powerful the studio tracks from their first album and EP translated into a live environment. However, I was unprepared for how charismatic and mesmerising the band would be, especially band leader Joshua Harmon, who clearly has the skill as a singer and guitarist to transfix a crowd, despite his quiet and slightly awkward in between song banter… it is only then you realise how young this band really is. He doesn’t seem so young when he is tearing through tastefully intricate guitar solos or screaming and sighing through his delicately beautiful, heartfelt songs.
The band’s confidence is revealed in their stunning use of dynamics; from ear splitting volumes to a whisper, and their conviction is repaid by a respectful audience who allow the silent moments in the songs to be heard with no background chatter. As regular gig-goers will know; this is a rare experience.
The Backseat Lovers play a set that covers their short career, picking tracks from all three of their releases. Singalong favourites “Pool House” and “Kilby Girl” ignite the audience with their infectious indie pop and don’t sound out of place with their more grown up new album songs, because they are still great songs, despite their adolescent lyrics or that they sound a little like Kings of Leon and Catfish and the Bottlemen respectively.
It is interesting that they don’t have either a rigid setlist, as they change the order and actual songs each night, or a designated encore (their last song is generally always the first album closer “Sinking Ship”). No encore charade: I love it! As they finish “Still a Friend” from their debut EP, Joshua tries to introduce their final song of the night but is interrupted by the fans and asked to play “Out of Tune” from the same EP, and although it isn’t planned, they do. It goes down a storm with the audience who sing along with the spine-tingling “You made me who I am – you had my back and I had yours” chorus.
Such a highlight, that I can’t believe they don’t include it every night. As the song ends the crowd start shouting “One more song” in unison (is this a new thing? We always used to just shout ‘More’ and clap and stamp, now there is no clapping just the repeated call for “One more song” while the band is still on stage. When did this change?). But it works (obviously as the band hadn’t actually finished) and we are treated to usual set closer, the powerful “Sinking Ship”. And then the audience turns and goes – it is most unsettling. Gone are the days of standing in the dark shouting yourself hoarse to an empty stage before the house lights come on anyway; now it is just more honest – ‘Thanks, we’re done, now let’s all go home’. It is so refreshing.
And that is one of the many reasons I love this band; from the self-deprecation of ‘a couple of posers with guitars That were always out of tune’ to the poetry of ‘Catching up on sleep’s harder when I’m waking up next to me’ in just four years. I can’t wait to see what’s next and for them to come back to Birmingham.
By the way, can someone who was there tonight please leave a comment to let me know how you found out about the band, and if there was anyone else there over 50? Thanks.
Close Your Eyes
Watch Your Mouth
No Takebacks (New song)
Know Your Name
Still a Friend
Out of Tune
Words and feature photo – Alan Neilson