By John Curley
The This Is The Modern World exhibition in the seafront city of Brighton, England put on some fantastic concerts at St. Peter’s Church, which is next to the Valley Gardens exhibition site. One of those shows, on Friday, August 26th, featured the British soul band Stone Foundation. The exhibition spotlighted Paul Weller’s bands The Jam and The Style Council and ran from the end of July to the end of August.
Stone Foundation are comprised of lead vocalist and guitarist Neil Jones, bassist Neil Sheasby, drummer Phil Ford, keyboardist Ian Arnold, percussionist Rob Newton, Steve Trigg and Dave Boraston on trumpets and Anthony Gaylard on saxophone. For the Brighton show, Stone Foundation were joined by special guests Steve White on drums and Mick Talbot on keyboards. White and Talbot had both been members of The Style Council.
Opening their one-hour-and-45-minute set with the solid and mellow “Soon You’ll Return,” Stone Foundation had the crowd with them from the start. The performance of “Turning Up the Hurt” had the crowd grooving and it featured heavy bass by Sheasby and a perfect and soulful lead vocal by Jones and well as standout work by the horn section. After the song, Jones soke to the crowd about the sound in the church, stating that he was not happy with it.
Next up was the funky, Talking Heads-like “Outside Looking In,” the title track to the band’s latest album. It rocked! The horns provided some spectacular playing and Sheasby’s basswork was tight. “The Light In Us” was given a tight performance that featured an impressive vocal by Jones with the horns adding some colorful touches. The soulful “Season of Change” featured rumbling bass by Sheasby, outstanding work by the horns and impressive playing on the Hammond organ by Arnold. It received a big reaction from the crowd. “Feel the Colours” spotlighted Gaylard’s saxophone playing and also featured solid bass by Sheasby and a strong vocal by Jones. “I Need Your Love” had impressive work by the horns, tight bass by Sheasby and a soulful lead vocal by Jones.
Steve White then joined the band for three consecutive songs. His drumming on “Hold On to Love” was airtight. The terrific work by the band during the performance of the song received a big reaction from the audience. “Freedom Starts” was driven by White’s propulsive drumming and Sheasby’s terrific basswork. White was joined by Style Council bandmate Talbot for the performance of “Carry the News”.’ It was one of the many highlights of the concert. White’s drumming on the song was outstanding as was Talbot’s keyboard playing. The horns were perfectly understated, Sheasby’s bass playing was rock solid and the lead vocal by Jones was strong. The crowd gave it a massive cheer.
The bright soul of “Deeper Love” had more than a few members of the audience dancing. Ford’s drums and Sheasby’s bass drove the song and provided perfect backing for the lead vocal by Jones. It received a big hand from the crowd. Percussionist Newton had a spotlight moment in the intro to “Heaven Knows Why.” It also featured fluid basslines by Sheasby and impressive keyboards by Arnold. The performance of “Af Ri Ka” was highlighted by the terrific work of the horn section. Sheasby contributed some impressive bass playing during the song’s instrumental break. When the performance of the song had concluded, Jones gave kudos to their sound technician for successfully dealing with the difficult acoustics of the church.
The soul/blues of “Help Me” was driven by the rhythm section. Talbot returned to the stage to play keys on the rocking and tight “Stylin’,” which featured stinging guitar by Jones, impressive percussion by Newton, powerful horns and rock-solid playing by the rhythm section. It received a big hand from the audience. Following the performance of the soulful “Somewhere a Voice,” Jones thanked the crowd for coming and spoke about how happy that he and the band were to be able to play live regularly again.
The rocking “Limit of a Man” had terrific guitar work and a strong vocal by Jones, punchy horns, great keyboards by Arnold and solid work by the rhythm section. It was another highlight of the show, and it received a huge reaction from the crowd at the end. “Echoes of Joy” was powered by Ford’s solid, propulsive drumming and the soulful and strong lead vocal by Jones. The main set closed out with the bouncy soul/rock of “Now That You Want Me Back” that had the crowd singing along to the chorus in full voice. It was wonderful.
After a very brief break, Jones retuned to the stage and spoke to the crowd about the tough times that we all have been through over the past two years. Then, he introduced each band member as they returned individually to the stage. Sheasby spoke about the band’s upcoming 25th anniversary next year and forthcoming documentary film on the band. The encore song, a solid and tight version of “Next Time Around,” received a loud and extended cheer from the crowd.
There is a possibility that Stone Foundation will be performing in New York City next year. Here’s hoping that it happens. They are a terrific band, and it would be fantastic if they can get to the Big Apple to perform. The NYC crowd would surely love the band. I am certainly grateful that I finally had the opportunity to see them perform in Brighton after becoming a fan of their work five years ago through their terrific 2017 album Street Rituals. Stone Foundation are a band that deserve exposure and to be heard.
Goldmine’s review of Stone Foundation’s 10th and latest album, Outside Looking In, can be read at https://www.goldminemag.com/reviews/stone-foundations-outside-looking-in-may-be-their-best-work-yet.
The setlist was:
Soon You’ll Return
Turning Up the Hurt
Outside Looking In
The Light In Us
Season of Change
Feel the Colours
I Need Your Love
Hold on To Love (with Steve White)
Freedom Starts (with Steve White)
Carry the News (with Steve White and Mick Talbot)
Heaven Knows Why
Af Ri Ka
Stylin’ (with Mick Talbot)
Somewhere a Voice
Limit of a Man
Echoes of Joy
Now That You Want Me Back
Next Time Around