Larkin Poe // Ryan McMullan // Live Review // The O2 Academy // Oxford
After nearly two years and two failed attempts to get this gig on, it was finally third time lucky when Larkin Poe made their long-awaited appearance in Oxford at the O2 Academy. They flew in the day before and this was the first in a very long line of dates on this UK/European tour.
There was a lot of excitement amongst the crowd who were looking forward to seeing these sisters, who are now based in Nashville Tennessee, but hail from Georgia, and there was certainly a buzz in the air. You could feel the excited anticipation throughout the room. Now Megan and Rebecca Lovell formed Larkin Poe back in 2010 so this has been a journey now spanning over a decade, but they have definitely honed their craft throughout this time and played with some of the world’s greatest musicians. This was going to be one helluva night if the stars felt it only right to align and allow the all-female attack to blow us away.
Before we got the pleasure of watching the headliners, there was a small matter of the support act, who for this tour was the Northern Irish musician Ryan McMullan. Now it was just Ryan and his three acoustic guitars when he took to the stage around 8 pm and instantly connected with the crowd with his softly spoken Irish accent and when he started singing, well everybody took notice. He has an incredible voice and one that I am sure will be heard much more in the future, especially after the exposure of this tour with Larkin Poe. His songs all seemed personal even when there was a cover of the Springsteen track ‘I’m On Fire’. He seemed to even make that his own. I think one of the most heartfelt tunes was the one he wrote about his home town called ‘Belfast City’.
Ryanhas his debut album coming out soon called ‘Redesign’ which is currently available to pre-order.
Definitely an artist to check out, a very talented young man with an angelic voice.
9 pm and time for the long-awaited appearance of Larkin Poe.
They took to the stage to great applause from the crowd who finally get to see these musical sisters live. They start off their set with the title track from their 2019 release ‘Self Made Man’, which, due to the worldwide pandemic, they have not had the chance to tour until now. This track, as you’d expect from two girls from Georgia, is a blues enthused banger of an opening track that has the crowd bouncing straight away.
Now Rebecca takes the lead with both guitar and vocals, but Megan, christened ‘The Slide Queen’ by her sister, ably provides wonderful harmonies and some of the most amazing slide playing that you will see this side of the delta. The two obviously have a wonderful connection being sisters, but they really do complement each other perfectly on stage and share the limelight equally.
Next up is the highly addictive ‘Keep Diggin’ that you cannot help but move to, and the audience was definitely doing that.
We are treated to tracks spanning pretty much all their studio albums, including the pulsating ‘Holy Ghost Fire’ and the wonderful ‘Back Down South’ which just encapsulates all that they stand for. At one point they tip their hypothetical hat to the fathers of that iconic southern sound The Allman Brothers which is greatly received by the captivated crowd.
We continue through with some wonderful performances of their hits including the beautiful ‘Might As Well Be Me’ followed by their unique take on ‘John The Revelator’.
All through their set, the girls are backed up wonderfully by Tarka Layman on bass and keys, and Kevin McGowan on drums. They provide the foundation for the girls to do their thing, and just play some amazing and fabulous rock and blues.
They genuinely look ecstatic to be on this stage over here in the UK, and I guess after all the false starts because of the pandemic, it is understandable. I would go so far as to say that there was a huge release of built-up tension from both the band and the audience tonight which all made for an incredible atmosphere. This was only the first night of the tour, so people attending future shows are in for an absolute treat on this performance.
Larkin Poe is the real deal and definitely one you need to tick off your bucket list of newer bands to get out and see live.