John & Jacob first registered on my radar when I heard their insanely catchy song ‘Be My Girl’ on ABC’s hit show, Nashville. After supporting UK tours by Kacey Musgraves and The Band Perry, both of which I missed due to incredibly poor choices, they first played a UK headlining show at The Borderline in Soho last year, summing up their impressive rise in popularity in the UK in a relatively short time.
When I saw that they were back in the country for a solo tour, there was absolutely no chance that I would miss them for a third time, so I snapped up tickets for their London show at the trendy Barfly in Camden. First off, they were supported by Holloway Road, a band set up as if to emulate Zac Brown Band, with banjo, electric and acoustic guitars, fiddle and drum kit, and who are performing on the Country2Country pop-up stages at the O2 Arena in March. Unfortunately, Holloway Road didn’t do it for me. The lead singer sounded a little bit too ‘Fall Out Boy’ for my taste, and alongside the too-loud drum kit, resulted in the banjo and fiddle being forced to play second string (excuse the pun). Perhaps acoustically they would be more agreeable to me, but they seemed halfway rock-band and halfway country-band, without doing either to an impressive level.
John & Jacob then took to the stage, opening with their album track ‘Ride With Me’. Although I wasn’t overly familiar with much of their material prior to the gig, this didn’t matter, since they were dynamic enough to capture my attention straight away anyway, and the quality of their mainstream-country songs were enough to allow me to hum along by the end of the first chorus!
The quality of their musicianship was obvious throughout the set, with their to-and-fro guitar conversations being as sharp as their harmonies, and Jacob even playing Trumpet riffs in ‘Coming Back To You’ and ‘Be My Girl’. One of the most impressive things about their set was the interaction they had with the crowd. Being a small venue, the crowd was always involved in the show, and when they played ‘Melissa’, they managed to identify a Melissa in the audience, and dedicate the song to her, which added a really nice and informal touch to the night.
Having only released one album, they had quite a few unreleased songs on their set-list, including ‘Problematic Chemistry’, which they said wasn’t on their album due to its similarity to the classic song ‘My Sharona’. Admittedly, the resemblance was uncanny, but the verses were quite different, ensuring that the song was still a largely original track.
One of the highlights of the set was their cover of ‘Done’, a The Band Perry number one, which was co-written by John & Jacob with The Band Perry. I wasn’t a huge fan of The Band Perry’s version of the song, since I much prefer them doing their more stripped back songs, but the John & Jacob version was brilliant, with nicer harmonies that the original, and with more musical energy, rather than Kimberly’s more athletic interpretation!
The energy in the crowd really scaled up towards the end of the set, with John & Jacob playing the catchy ‘Breaking The Law’, joined on stage with The Shires who happened to be at the show. John & Jacob usually play with the rest of their band back in the US, and judging by this collaboration, that would create a much richer sound, because even the addition of The Shires’ backing vocals gave the song a really intensity, matched by the crowd’s excitement at seeing such a collaboration.
Finishing with their most famous songs ‘I’d Go Back’ and ‘Be My Girl’ really sent the gig off on a high note, with the crowd getting involved with some loud (and accurate) singing of the lyrics back to John & Jacob, who really looked taken aback that they had such a level of support across the Atlantic. ‘I’d Go Back’ is definitely my favourite song of any band at the moment, and seeing it live was really awesome, possibly made even better by the lack of band backing, since the song is quite intimate, and in The Barfly, this intimacy really came across.
As I said, I didn’t really know many John & Jacob songs before the gig, but I bought their album from the vendor, and now cannot stop listening to it. Next they tour, go and see them. If you can’t wait, then go to the US and see them, because they are that good!