Recognised as one of this country’s best songwriters of the past few decades, Luke Morley continues to spread his wings, solidifying his reputation with Songs From The Blue Room, the guitarist’s sophomore solo album. With Thunder on hiatus, the ever-busy Morley has warmly embraced the opportunity to head out on the road. The O2 Academy Islington show closed what has been a very successful run of dates.
O2 Academy, Islington – 31 January 2024
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Photography: Steve Ritchie
Luke Morley has spread his wings to embrace the rootsier side of his muse. It’s been quite a step out too, taking on the role of frontman and lead singer in front of a live audience for the first time potentially a daunting experience but one that he’s certainly risen to and handles with aplomb.
Luke spoke to MetalTalk just before Songs From The Blue Room was released.Originally, there was not a plan for a tour. “As the album is kind of a side project anyway, initially, I was thinking I won’t bother doing any gigs,” Luke said. “Now the news is out that the album’s coming, and people have heard the first track. Well, when are you touring? So I thought I better have a look at it.”
It helps that he has his bass-playing Thunder compadré Chris Childs with him onstage, alongside rock-solid drummer Jack Taylor, stellar keys and vocals from Sam Tanner and fellow veteran six-stringer Dean Howard, all providing their own magic.
Whilst the pressure is on him, Morley seems relaxed and really enjoying himself. The whole project exudes an easy-going bonhomie, the singles preceding the album pointing more to the classy strut of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Certainly, the opener, I Wanna See The Light, was a country-tinged rocker that shimmied and dodged like an angry rattlesnake. But it was the touches of The Beatles and 10cc in both Damage and Killed By Cobain that displayed the material’s shape-shifting class.
There’s a curious mix of lived-in grit and rolling warmth in Morley’s vocals, the elements working together to give him the perfect storyteller tone as the Dylanesque construction of Errol Flynn charms and seduces. Superb backing vocals add lush harmonies and sparkling keys.
The guitar interplay between Morley and Howard adds a layer of West Coast patina to the whole as This World and The First Day shimmer in the desert heat. Close your eyes, and you could swear you’d been transported from the industrial warehouse look that instructs the inside of the O2 Academy across the Atlantic to the balmy beauty of California’s Pacific Coast Highway, the funky groove of I’m The One You Want coming out of the radio as the sun warms your face.
From the waltz-like beauty of Nobody Cares to the rumbunctious country rock of Watch The Sun Go Down, this was a many-hued set displaying a lightness of touch and understanding of dynamics that showed that playing less makes those spaces more powerful.
A heartfelt and moving thanks to all the people who’ve supported Thunder singer Danny Bowes in his battle back to health precedes an encore singalong of Better Man, the crowd linking arms and swaying in unison to its raw lyrics.
Bringing the party back, Go With The Flow rocked with a defiant groove and swing before a suitably longing take of The Kinks sexually ambiguous masterpiece Lola closed the night in fine style.
Drifting off into the dying hours of the January evening, there couldn’t have been a soul not warmed by the music they had just heard as smiles wreathed faces. A perfect night.