There is a privileged sect of people who get to experience thrills not yet available to the general public, like those who test drive the latest Mercedes-Benz prototype before it gets put into production or the lucky crowd at a private screening of Martin Scorsese’s next epic. Those people were in the Crystal Bay Casino’s Red Room May 27 who watched New York City’s the London Souls prove why it is the most promising rock band in music.
The London Souls have been one of the best-kept secrets in the NYC concert scene since guitarist Tash Neal and drummer Chris St. Hilaire united in 2008. They made the rounds around the city’s clubs and received high praise from critics and fans alike with a self-titled debut released in 2011.
However, a near-fatal hit-and-run accident in the summer of 2012 put Neal in the hospital with life-threatening brain injuries and delayed the band’s steady ascension in the musical ranks while Neal recovered. The accident happened just as the band had finished recording its excellent sophomore album “Here Come The Girls,” which finally saw its release in the spring on Eric Krasno’s new record label Feel Music Group. The band is making up for lost time and playing with a tenacity that can only be unleashed with a second chance at life.
The dynamic power of Neal and St. Hilaire is felt just as much as it is heard. Neal’s guitar knows this much after he broke a string on it during the band’s first song, the bluesy “Honey,” which was hammered out with fevered intensity from the two musicians. It was an omen for the sonic attack the duo would lead against their instruments through the night, with Neal’s guitar strikes registering on the Richter Scale and St. Hilaire accenting notes like cracks of lightning.
The ride the London Souls took on the audience routinely skirted off the rails as the two would take songs on psychedelic sojourns. “All Tied Down” growled at a steady rhythm before Neal became unbridled and ripped into the song with manic soloing, while the drums followed close behind. They also weren’t afraid to rough up their songs and take them somewhere different, as more poppy, acoustic songs like “Valerie” and “When I’m With You” had a much grittier edge to them live than on “Here Come The Girls.”
Neal and St. Hilaire fed off each other’s energy and their willingness to travel deep into their jams together kept the music united and pushing forward rather than losing steam behind exploratory solos. The two also showed that their musicianship went deeper than their talented playing, as each could sing very well and harmonized beautifully on songs like “Bobby James.” These guys have a lot of options when it comes to choosing just how to knockout an audience
The London Souls are on a trajectory toward filling clubs and theaters with its ’70’s-inspired rock. The chance to see it play for free on a small stage in Tahoe is one that will never come again as its star continues to rise. To be able to catch such a great band playing in such an intimate venue was a gem, one that will be cherished for years to come.