Concert Review: JC Ryan Band, Finn Bonel @ Monto Water Rats Theatre, London, England

Last night saw London singer-songwriter Finn Bonel take the stage at Monto Water Rats Theatre (don’t worry – he returned it – groan!). While preparing songs for his debut album (and answering silly interview questions from PeteHatesMusic), Finn has been road testing some songs and playing gigs. One such gig was last night in London, at Monto Water Rats Theatre.

Having only heard a few songs floating around on YouTube and SoundCloud, and unable to break into Finn’s studio, I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect from Finn prior to his album debut. I had a HUGE dilemma, as when I was buying some pints in the front room bar, the classic Beatles album, Abbey Road, was playing on the stereo. If Finn disappointed, the end medley of Abbey Road was waiting for me.

“Hi, I’m Finn Bonel and these are my songs” was how the singer greeted the largest crowd of the night (despite having 2 acts follow him). The first song was a full-on rock song, unlike anything I’d heard from his catalog. Finn had Kurt Cobain-esque vocals for the heavy first song, which was like a Nirvana or Foo Fighters song. However, knowing a few of his songs, I thought this song did not highlight Finn’s key strength, which are his vocals.

The 3-piece band then launched into their 2nd song, which was Sundown. This is more fitting to his vocal styles. Finn let us know that the song is a “Free download of you join the mailing list, and only if you join the mailing list”. Duly noted.

The next song was an acoustic one with a harmonica, and was Ramshackle Heart. Finn’s vocals highlight the song, and if Finn hits the big time, this is a song you could perhaps picture an arena full of people pulling out their lighters (or mobile phones nowadays) while they sing along.

Solitary Man was 4th song, followed by single Love’s the Only Thing. Finn urged us to buy the song from iTunes and Amazon as he needs “the money for brylcreem”. The song featured pre-recorded strings but won’t fault him for that, as they are the crux of the song and the stage is only so big.

The 6th song is new single, and the video might be up on YouTube. I didn’t recognize the song and my YouTube skills are limited to finding funny videos with cats, so I can’t confirm the song is actually up. The strings in the song were not as catchy as last song. Finn asked “How is he going to love you if you don’t love yourself” during the song’s chorus, and I wasn’t sure how to answer.

The last song was another “electric” last song, which had a good riff but Finn’s vocals and his strengths were buried in the noise. The fans demanded an encore, and Finn obliged, playing an instrumental song called Devil Part 2. The song was a solid end to an overall great set.

The first band I caught, playing before Finn Bonel, was the JC Ryan Band. Would it be weird to say the singer sort of sounds like a female Stephen Page from Barenaked Ladies (perhaps mixed with Shawn Colvin)? That’s a compliment, assuming she doesn’t plan on getting busted for cocaine possession ala Stephen Page.

The 3 piece band had a good guitarist, with good riffs, and a California pop vibe with some of the rhythms. The band played a song called “Hey Boy”, which was written for people hanging outside the singer’s flat, which was on the wrong side of town. I’m proud to have a song written about me!

The band busted out their secret weapon – a banjo. It was such a secret weapon that the banjo player failed to plug it in and required assistance before the song started. The song had a good harmony, but suffered from poor lyrics.

The banjo stuck around for 3 songs, while a harmonica was brought out on last song, which was about fun stuff as you grow up. The singer always had a smile on her face, clearing enjoying the moment. With a good singer and guitarist, the JC Ryan Band has the foundation for good songs once they play to their strengthes.

After Finn Bonel were two other 3-piece bands (3-piece bands are the new 4-piece bands), both of which I did not catch the name of (perhaps due to the copious amounts of beer consumed at this point). The first band did mainly 3 part harmonies, with 1 guitar, 1 guy standing there with a shaker ala Liam Gallagher, and one drummer. Perhaps they have a better mix or sound on any studio recordings they may have, but it seemed like a watered down solo act with less instrumentation. The band played simple music, including a cover of Foster the People’s Pumped Up Kicked, and have no real stage presence. The band reminded me of a high school talent band, playing at a school assembly that needs that token band to play. After 4 songs, I treated myself to a listen of the Beatles’ Revolver, which was now playing in the front room.

The band after that was another 3-piece band, which was by far the loudest band of the night. The vocal mic was too soft, and it was hard to tell if the singer had spoken word parts to the start of songs, or if he was actually speaking to the sparse crowd, which cleared out after Finn Bonel. However, the band had the best drummer of the night.

However, the night belonged to Finn Bonel, and his highly anticipated studio album.

PHM Rating for Finn Bonel: 8.0 out of 10
PHM Rating for JC Ryan Band: 7.0 out of 10
PHM Rating for The Beatles’ Abbey Road and Revolver, Playing in the Front Room: 10 out of 10

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