By Adam McGrath
The London Souls are actually based in Brooklyn, not England, and they play rock, not soul. But not much else is confusing about the powerhouse musical duo of Tash Neal (guitar/lead vocals) and Chris St. Hilaire (drums/vocals). Back in top form after Neal’s miraculous recovery from a tragic injury, The London Souls are taking full advantage of the new lease on life. Their fearless brand of classic rock ‘n’ roll is stirring up buzz well beyond the five boroughs.
The band’s second full-length album, Here Come the Girls, dropped April 7 as the inaugural collaboration between Round Hill Records and Eric Krasno’s (Soulive) Feel Music Group. After commemorating the release with the whole crew up at Bowery Ballroom, Tash and Chris brought the party to Philly for a WXPN Free at Noon performance on Friday followed by a show at Ardmore Music Hall Saturday. Even with bassist Stu Mahan down with an illness, The London Souls made quite the impression on the good people of the Delaware Valley.
Saturday was my first visit to Ardmore Music Hall, though I certainly recognized the bar from my college-era visits to Brownie’s. The makeover is solid, with floor space and a raised standing area to go with a killer sound system. Try the lamb kofte panini from the Mediterranean-inspired menu.
The show turned out to be more of a co-headlining bill, with soul-funk band Pimps of Joytime pumping out the jams for nearly 90 minutes before breaking off their hypnotic grip on the crowd. Those guys and gals definitely knew how to hold a tight pocket, and went heavy on the percussion as they borrowed from a few different genres. Lead singer and guitarist Brian J had some chops, and pulled off the top hat look as well as anyone can, I suppose. Fun fact about singer and percussionist Mayteana Morales: she starred on the early ’90s PBS show Ghostwriter. Make sure to YouTube that later.
After a bit of time to recharge, during which Tash Neal casually milled around as the techs got things set up, the crowd was ready for a tonal shift, and got one as Neal and St. Hilaire tore into tracks like “When I’m With You” and “All Tied Down.” St. Hilaire held down the kit while Neal almost floated away on his electric licks. The weeks spent on the road before the album release proved fruitful, as the duo never wavered in their precise style of shredding.
The London Souls are a throwback to the turned-up, wide-open guitar rock of the 1970s. Their slick cover of The Faces’ “Stay With Me” proved that point easily. But there’s plenty more to find than nostalgia in their music, and more folks are bound to know that soon. The band’s tour rolls on, so make sure to take note of their next stop near you.
All photos by Adam McGrath