At the intimate Picture House Social, Johnny Lloyd takes to the stage armed with just an acoustic guitar and harmonica.
The sight is a far cry from the one that fans became accustomed to in the Tribes days, but Lloyd looks at home. It’s almost obligatory to say how nice it is to be in the city that is playing host to you, but he appears genuinely pleased.
This is evident throughout his set, as he shares witty anecdotes and delves through the story of songs before playing them. It is clear that the crowd is littered with committed Tribes fans, who respond with feverish cheers when he announces that he is going to take the crowd back to 2011 before playing ‘Corner Of An English Field’.
More hits from the Tribes catalogue follow, and ‘Sappho’ transforms the crowd into a glorious army of flailing arms.
His undeniable talent is at its most exposed in the cosy setting, where his flawless vocals give an anthemic sound to the relaxed acoustic tracks from his new album, Next Episode Starts In 15 Seconds.
The hypnotic ‘Modern Pornography’ is delivered with emotion, as is the latest release ‘Forced Therapy’, which Lloyd dedicates to his late Grandfather.
The self-aware and brutally honest songwriter injects a refreshing amount of personality into his performance, veering the crowd away from stunned emotion following sombre songs and into laughter when he recites tales from his time in Tribes and previous solo tour dates. Lloyd chuckles as he has strong words for an employee of his former label, Island Records, and discusses making mistakes on previous nights of the tour.
The Tribes’ hits evoke nostalgia and lead to mass sing-alongs, but it is the tracks from his new record that impress the most. Aided by the harmonica, ‘Fix’ is mesmerising, whilst the title track ‘Next Episode Starts In 15 Seconds’ allows Lloyd to share sound advice from within the lyrics and epitomise the more mature direction of his music.
As he works through a stacked setlist, the captivated crowd can barely bring themselves to go to the bar. Regardless of whether people had been die-hard Tribes followers or not, it is almost impossible to have your attention diverted. To describe any performance as a ‘journey’ is somewhat cringe-inducing, yet it is difficult not to do so on this occasion. The telling of the stories behind the songs take observers through Lloyd’s life, providing the passionately delivered lyrics with substance and meaning through context.
With three albums on the way in 2020, Johnny Lloyd will almost certainly be back on the road soon and missing out would not be advisable.
Image: Sonic PR, Toby Ross-Southall