Reviews

Live Review: Bar Stool Preachers set Bristol bouncing on the first date of their UK tour!

Hot on the heels of latest album 'Above The Static', Brighton's Bar Stool Preachers bring their infectious musical party to UK fans - Punktuation's Ruth Rae snapped up a ticket for the first show..

Following the launch of their highly acclaimed third album ‘Above The Static’, then a successful tour in Germany, Brighton Ska-Punks Bar Stool Preachers kicked off the UK leg of their album tour at Lost Horizon Arts Centre in Bristol on 19th April.

The fans began to arrive early, some bearing gifts of childrens books which the band are collecting for Tiny Paws – Books for Kids charity. Singer TJ and bassist Bungle came out to collect the donated books to stow in the tour van, and for greetings and hugs, then TJ had to come back again to stop the tour bus alarm going off!

Inside the venue we marvelled at the lovely new BSP backdrop and amp covers displayed on the stage, and the equally lovely new album, T-shirts and hoodies on the merch desk. I had a chat with keyboard player Alex while making my purchases – he’s extremely happy to be bringing their new music out live across the country at last!

BSP 'Call Me On The Way Home' amp cover

Support came from Jess Silk, followed by The Zipheads. Jess played acoustic guitar and sang the most thought-provoking songs about the issues affecting us all in the world today. Her Folk/Punk style is similar to TV Smith and Billy Bragg, which is a very good thing!

Powerful song Mayday Mayday with the line “If you’re exporting arms you’ll import refugees” was particularly poignant for me. Loud cheers and applause from the crowd confirmed that many others also loved her set. Jess and I had a conversation afterwards, where we both agreed that the more people talk and sing about the inequalities in this world, the better hope there is for understanding and change. Jess has a great voice and great things to say – make sure you catch her soon!

Jess Silk
Jess Silk - Bristol, Apr 2023

Guitarist Ray Waters was doing double duty tonight – not only is he the singer and guitarist for The Zipheads, he also plays in Bar Stool Preachers! Ray was joined on stage by drummer Will Bennett and double bass player Dick Dynamite for a lively set of Rockabilly Punk which soon had the audience dancing. Ray is an excellent frontman, entertaining the audience with snippets about the songs and introducing his bandmates. He is also an excellent guitarist, reminding me very much of Phil Thompson (of Department S and The Rezillos) with his energetic style.

The Zipheads live
The Zipheads - Bristol, Apr 2023

Despite a string snapping early in the set, bassist Dick carried on playing on three strings, as it would have taken too long to fit a replacement. I congratulated him later for being a trooper, to which his bandmates quipped that bass players usually manage on one string anyway..!

Joking aside, the band played an excellent set, including new songs from their forthcoming album which they are recording. Telekinesis, their latest single, is a frenetic jam of all three instruments and it sounds amazing live! The Zipheads are out and about in the UK this year in between recording, so look out for them.

Bar Stool Preachers on stage Bristol
Bar Stool Preachers - Bristol, Apr 2023

The crowd flocked to the front in eager anticipation for the main act – Bar Stool Preachers came on powered up to maximum with a banger, first song of the set Call Me On The Way Home, with its strong message and sing-along chorus. The stage seemed barely big enough to contain their exuberance, which was echoed by the audience, singing and dancing along.

The band were as delighted as the audience with the enthusiastic reception of the new songs – All Turned Blue was an absolute treat, and I’ll never forget TJ looking right at me as he sang the first verse “You gotta listen to yourself. Don’t put too much stock, In anybody else’s opinions of you. Are they wearing your shoes?” He’s spot on with his lyrics as always, and a warm, engaging singer who always makes you feel like part of the band and part of his family.

TJ McFaull - Bar Stool Preachers
TJ McFaull - Bar Stool Preachers - Bristol, Apr 2023

Many older numbers were played and received with equal delight, Keeping Busy and Drink being additions to the set list for this tour – both excellent songs which we all loved to hear live.

With his infectious grin and athletic jumping, bass player Bungle revved up the crowd. He frequently moved back to allow guitartists Karl Smith and Tom Gibbs to showcase their fabulous playing, and Karl even had Ray take over on his electric guitar for a while to give the acousic a rest!

Bungle - Bar Stool Preachers - Bristol, Apr 2023
Karl Smith (left) and Tom Gibbs (above) - Bar Stool Preachers - Bristol, Apr 2023

At the back, for once not crushed into the tightest of spaces, Team Alex (Alex D Hay on keys and Alexander ‘Whibbs’ Whibley-Conway on drums) were no less energetic than their bandmates. The usual poor lighting at the rear of the stage made it harder to photograph them, but I spent considerably more time jumping around to the music than taking snaps!

After a spirited rendition of 8.6 Days (All The Broken Hearts) with full audience participation, Alex and TJ returned to play Lighthouse Keeper, an achingly beautiful song on piano and vocals. This was a last-minute decision, as it wasn’t on the set list, but TJ said afterwards that he felt compelled to do it due to all the love in the room. What an absolute honour to be there for the first public performance – I wasn’t the only person in tears during the song – as it was every bit as emotional and wonderful live as it is on the new album.

Whibbs - Bar Stool Preachers
Whibbs (above) and Alex (right) - Bar Stool Preachers - Bristol, Apr 2023
Alex - Bar Stool Preachers
Ray Waters - Bar Stool Preachers - Bristol, Apr 2023

The rest of the band returned for two further fabulous encores, When This World Ends and the traditional Barstool PreacherEverybody get you knees up!”. Band and crowd threw their hands in the air, then it was all over, bar some sweaty hugs (we were all glowing!)

Bar Stool Preachers are the best band I know for lifting your mood – if they could bottle that they’d have a universal cure for depression! But until then, I’m off to see the lads another two times on this tour, and at Rebellion Festival in August – I can’t wait!

If you haven’t see Bar Stool Preachers live yet, you are seriously missing out! The tour contines over the next 2 weeks – some shows have sold out already (Brighton, Edinburgh) with tickets running low on others – so grab ’em while you can!

BSP UK tour 2023

Main Photo Credit and All Photos by: RUTH RAE

  1. Call me on the way home
  2. Trickledown
  3. Looking Lost
  4. All Turned Blue
  5. Choose My Friends
  6. State of Emergency
  7. Doorstep
  8. Flatlined
  9. Raced Through Berlin
  10. Keeping Busy
  11. One Fool Down
  12. Love the Love
  13. Start New
  14. Don’t Die Today
  15. Drink
  16. 8.6 Days (all the Broken Hearts)


Encore

  1. Lighthouse Keeper (First live performance)
  2. When This World Ends
  3. Barstool Preacher
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