Naturally 7 @ The Stables

Live at the Stables, MK & the Barbican, London 9th & 10th June 2009

The Wall of Sound Tour (Live at the Stables, MK & the Barbican, London 9th & 10th June)

Every so often in life, an individual, or in this case a group come along who exceed your expectations ten fold and then some. Naturally 7 are such a phenomenon. I must confess, I jumped on late to the Naturally 7 band wagon, but I’m fully on board now and do not intend to alight any time soon.

Thanks to a heads up email from UK Vibe’s editor Steve, a few days later I was sat in ‘the Stables’, Milton Keynes about to be awakened to the delights of ‘Vocal Play’ – a term coined by Naturally 7.

‘Fly Baby’, their opening number dispelled at once any notion I had that these guys were and are the real deal. From the moment Jamal Reed followed closely by Garfield Buckley loped onto the Stables stage, vocally mimicking a guitar/harmonica, with a high pitched ‘T’wah! T’wah! – T’wah! T’wah! , the audience were transfixed.

That then transitioned into gasps and whoops as vocal percussionist Warren Thomas chimed in with a heavy, heavy kick drum, cymbals and hi – hat, which resonated throughout the whole building! He was sat as if addressing a transitional drum kit and even mimicked the actions, but this kit was invisible! The booming tones of Hops brought in the bass and all the ladies present dissolved into their seats.

Trust me, if one was to close their eyes you’d be forgiven there was a real band hiding behind the curtains. That vibe was continued two songs later in Naturally 7’s classic arrangement and interpretation of Mr Mister’s timeless ‘Broken Wings’. Warren and Jamal’s intro guitars making way for Dwight Stewart’s smooth and rounded baritone, which did justice to the partially restructured lyrics.

The initially low, then gradually increasing and tight harmonies led into the incessant primal and upbeat rhythms of ‘Speed of Sound’, supported by an equally tribal dance routine and chants. The pace changed markedly with a pure sweet a cappella version of Naturally 7’s first ever song, ‘Bless This House’.

Now came Warren Thomas’ ‘Drum Solo’, the first of six individual spotlights on the night. Again Warren sat as if astride a complete drum kit and proceeded to ‘do his thang!’ for the next three minutes – truly spellbinding!

The stage lights faded then, ‘Drip drop, I need just one good cry…’ were the words that emanated from the darkness, before the haunting, angelic strains of ‘Let It Rain’ wafted over us. Jamal and Dwight exchanged lead vocals for this plea to the heavens.

Rod Eldridge performed his original and amazing ‘loop pedal solo’ next – building an entire composition with his voice, a microphone and that loop pedal! The first session was concluded with a powerful vocal and visual rendition of ‘Wall Of Sound’ and the classical treatment of ‘Another You’, flute ‘n’ all!

After everyone had splashed cold water on their faces during the interval – to confirm they weren’t dreaming – the funky swing of ‘Open Your Eyes’ heralded our welcome to part two. Jamal took centre stage, with his soaring vocals raising people out their seats who had just sat down.

They remained standing as Jamal segued into his ‘Guitar Solo’. A scarily real electric guitar screeched from his vocal chords, amusing his UK hosts with a respectful version of ‘God Save The Queen.’

The mega impactful ‘Say You Love Me’, introduced as a request from God’s point of view, resounded throughout the auditorium, mainly due to Warren’s thunderous kick drum effect and the imploring vocal of Dwight. By now it was standing room only!! No chairs required.

Next into the ‘Solo’ spotlight was Garfield, ‘the incredible Harmonica Man’. The superlatives were quickly being used up. Roger and his brother Warren then did a comedic skit, to explain how their household had only three albums – one of John Denver, one of Cliff Richard and one of Simon and Garfunkel. The latter being the musical template for an enthralling three song medley homage; ‘Sound of Silence’, ‘Scarborough Fair’ and ‘April, Come She Will’.

We were all snapped out of our trances by the full on ‘Don’t Shoot the Messenger’, acted out ala Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’. Slenderly built bass man’ Hops stepped to plate next to thrill his growing legion of fans with his booming ‘Bass Solo’ including an impromptu version of MJ’s ‘Billie Jean’ – with moves! The audience lapped it up.

As the evening drew to close, Rod got to itchin’ and scratchin’ on his ‘DJ Solo’ prior to the group belting out hair raising versions of ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Feel It (In the Air Tonight)’, both received with rapturous applause and whooping.

This gushing show of approval didn’t die down until Naturally 7 took to the stage again, implored by those gathered for more natural flavours. They duly obliged with the barber shop quartet styled ‘More Than Words’ and the Motown inspired ‘Ready or Not’, complete microphone stands and ‘Four Tops’ dance steps.

Naturally 7 are definitely the real deal and a breath of fresh air on the live music circuit. If ever they come to a town or city near you, make sure and check them out. I guarantee you’ll leave the venue intoxicated! However, it will be a natural high brought about by the ‘Vocal Play’ of Naturally 7.

Michael J Edwards

Many thanks to Sorcha Hunter @ Serious for her efforts