LIVE REVIEW: Stone Foundation @ Riverside, Newcastle (08.11.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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There are few bands for which the moniker ‘hardest working band in the UK’, would be more appropriate. Criminally ignored by mainstream press and media, Stone Foundation have had to do it the hard way; hundreds of gigs, dogged determination and a resolute and unwavering vision to make modern progressive soul music. Following an incredibly successful summer touring with collaborator and mentor Paul Weller, they’re back on the road and back at the Riverside on a dank and dismal Friday night.

Bold, bass-heavy and brimming with confidence, new song, Freedom Starts, gets things off to a flyer. The track is a perfect encapsulation of everything great about the eight-piece, and a blueprint for what to expect over the next 80 minutes. Locked down with the bass and drums axis of Neil Sheasby and Phil Ford, they launch into Open Your Heart, the horns painting the groove with a pulse that positively shakes your body down to the ground. A joyous Next Time Around is followed by two new tracks, Only You Can and Changes, both sounding like they’ve been in the Stone Foundation canon for quite some considerable time, and that is high praise indeed.

Shifting up a gear, they launch a soul salvo onto the Riverside crowd; Seasons of Change sounding like a 21st century Staple Singers, The Limit of a Man, a euphoric TSOP homage dripping with positivity, and set highlight, Simplify the Situation, a sensational slab of super funk with a message of hope, featuring some exquisite keyboard work from Ian Arnold.  Briefly slowing down proceedings with the gorgeous Your Balloon is Rising, consummate front man Neil Jones – who’s covered virtually every inch of the stage to this point – stands stock still, frozen to the spot, and delivers the track with every single fibre of his being to a stunned and speechless congregation. Soul isn’t about singing as many notes as you can, it’s about meaning it, feeling it, living it…and oh boy, does Jones mean it. Wrapping up the main set with a buoyant Back in the Game, and a superb rendition of the Ann Peebles classic I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down , the two Neils thank the gathered masses for their continued support of a band playing original music in this age of reformations and tribute acts and leave the stage to rapturous applause.

Jones returns and introduces the band members, each one welcomed back like a returning hero. With no time to waste (due to an early curfew) they rip into the shimmering and divine Sweet Forgiveness, building from a smoky laidback Rhodes and horn intro to a stone cold Stax groove punctuated with live percussion from Rob Newton, the track reaches a palpable crescendo with the “Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something” hook, band and crowd in unison, chanting for a better day.  The real surprise of the set is Beverley, originally composed for the Cass Pennant film of the same name, it’s inclusion in the set is a real delight and is greeted as such. Wrapping up with an ecstatic and life-affirming Going Back To My Roots, a superlative evening concludes with Stone Foundation at the lip of the stage, arms aloft, singing the famous refrain along with a truly blown away Riverside crowd. Hallelujah.

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