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The London Souls Captivate in Their Tour Opener

January 9th, 2013

The London Souls – The Bowery Ballroom – January 8, 2013


The Jimi Hendrix comparisons are inevitable for Tash Neal, the lead guitarist and singer of the London Souls. It’s by far the easiest way to categorize him, not just because he’s a black guitarist who shreds, but because it seems like everything he emits provides more similarities. His band is a trio with a floppy-haired drummer and he’s groomed an epic ’fro—plus he even wears those hipster earmuffs that have become fashionable around Williamsburg, which could easily be mistaken for one of Hendrix’s bandannas. Superficially, Tash is channeling Jimi’s ghost.

But hearing the London Souls last night at The Bowery Ballroom shattered any notion in my mind that the London Souls are a just an updated Jimi Hendrix Experience. Neal’s guitar playing owes more to Duane Allman’s country blues than Hendrix’s psychedelia. He has more discipline than did Hendrix, keeping his solos tight and purely in support of his songs. And his stage persona allows for far more fun than Hendrix’s atomic focus ever did. Maybe this last point is a function of his surviving a near-fatal car accident last year, when his cab was struck by drag racers. “For everyone who’s sent a positive thought my way,” Tash remarked last night, “I just wanna say thanks. I’m still around. It’s fine.”

The London Souls played last night’s show as if it could have been their last. They must have burned through their entire catalog during their two-hour set, including “Steady Are You Ready,” “She’s So Mad” and “Old Country Road,” and the band also busted out AC/DC and David Bowie covers. Neal melted faces throughout, but the high point must have been the extended solo on “Someday,” the reggae-tinged cover that, at its midpoint, takes a turn for the heavy. Neal subdued the toxic amount of distortion from his amp and captivated the crowd as his fingers danced across the fret board. Yes, Tash Neal and the London Souls are still around. It’s quite fine. —Alex Kapelman

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com