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Lionize at Black Heart, London - live review

Live Review

Venue: Black Heart, London

Nuclear soul from the Maryland mavericks

With his tight-fitting gold lamé T-shirt and matching trousers, Lionize frontman Nathan Bergman looks like a superstar schlub. He’s not a big guy, stocky maybe, but the tiny stage at the Black Heart pub barely contains him. It certainly can’t hold his voice – one part warthog bellow, one part raging croon.

American band Lionize share plenty of similarities with Clutch, their big-brother band from back home in Maryland. It’s there in the taut grooves, the sandpaper-and-honey sonics, their propensity to throw in the odd funky drum break. But they dig deeper and go further back too: the warm growl of a Hammond XK5 organ lends a vintage sound to their songs, even at their most bludgeoning.

Bergman is without doubt the stone-cold star of the show, unafraid to peel off some classic rock guitar heroics, complete with classic rock guitar hero moves and shapes. There’s a glint of madness in his eyes – ‘Don’t trust our government,’ he sings repeatedly at one point – but there’s also a streak of emotion a mile wide, not least on the epic blowout Ain’t That A Shame.

Lionize say reggae is a big influence on their brand of rock’n’roll, but on listening to them you’d be hardpushed to hear it. What they are, in all their raw, ragged glory, is a soul band in rock band clothes – gold lamé ones at that.

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