Gig Review: Purson (Railway Hotel, Southend, April 18, 2015)

Purson formed in 2011 in Southend, Essex. They could be described as a sixties pop and folk meets seventies psychedelic/progressive/hard rock kind of band.

Despite being steeped in influences of these eras (Pentangle, Curved Air, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Black Sabbath, King Crimson, Deep Purple etc…) their songs do not sound dated but are instead fresh, new and glowing with magical “technicolor”.

Purson’s music is created and realized through the visions of their highly talented, charismatic and gifted leader, singer, guitarist and writer Rosalie Cunningham.

The band have gone through several line-up changes since their inception, founder Cunningham being the only original and consistent member (Ed Turner, Rosalie’s then partner, guitarist and co-writer left in 2013). The current line-up consists of childhood friends Sam Shove (keyboards) and George Hudson (guitar) with new members Justin Smith (bass) and Raphael Mura (drums) completing the band.

Their fantastic debut album, The Circle And The Blue Door (2013) is full of whimsical magical otherworldly visions and sprinklings of English folklore.

Cleverly constructed and beautifully crafted, it has a multitude of interesting and intriguing deep layers to discover and reveal upon repeated listens. This album has a definite purpose to transport, impress and captivate the listener, which it does, and with a masterful sense of sophistication and style.

Cunningham’s warm, expressive voice dips and trills with smoky overtones, soaring to melodic high ranges that burn bright, reminding you that the Purson name itself is derived from one of the kings of hell!

The gig at the The Railway Hotel, Southend on the 18th April 2015 was Purson’s homecoming gig and one that I had to attend. The Railway is a true music fan’s venue. On the sign outside is a picture of the legendary Wilko Johnson, who lives in Southend and is also a regular punter to the venue. Inside, the jukebox blares out classic rock music and the surrounding walls are decorated with rock memorabilia of music legends of yesteryear.

I travelled from London by train with the hope that I would be able to catch the last train back after the show. Purson were due to play in the larger upstairs room, no advance tickets were available – it was just pay on the door. By 7pm a sizable cue started to develop outside. Luckily early queueing paid off and I was able to get a ticket at a bargain price of £5! The gig was a sell out and unfortunately several people did not get in.

The band kicked off the set with the incredible ‘Spiderwood Farm’ a brilliant theatrical ghost story with a strong dynamic riff. The second single ‘Leaning On A Bear’, an upbeat vaudevillian fairytale, was next and played with much fervor. Their brilliant first single ‘Rocking Horse’ was next, followed by a newer song called ‘Mr. Howard’, which sounds excellent and I believe might appear on their forthcoming album. The B-side of the first single ‘Twos And Ones’ was a surprise, but a very welcome one as it is a really great song.

‘Tempest And The Tide’ slows things down a bit, full of emotion and atmosphere, just beautiful and moving. Third single ‘The Contract’ was up next, with the monumental riffing and dark lyrics of ‘Well Spoiled Machine’ following. Masterfully executed and much appreciated by the dedicated audience. Next in the set was the sublime and delightful ‘Mavericks And Mystics’. The excellent and amazingly intense ‘Danse Macabre’ and the prog tinged ‘Wanted Man’ from their more recent and fantastic EP In The Meantime were played next, a hugely welcomed highlight of the set for me.

For the encore the quality continued to rise and esculate with the awesome guitar freak out on the brilliant ‘Sapphire Wards’ and then the gorgeous bluesy ‘Tragic Catastrophe’ with it’s sprawling progg-y tendencies and cool riffs.

It was a truly delightful and fantastic evening of great music with a top quality band. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for their forthcoming tour dates and will hopefully be able to witness them live again. Highly recommended to rock music lovers. Their second album is nearly ready for imminent release and is eagerly awaited.

Steven C. Gilbert

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