Deep in suburban south-east London, Kindred Spirit are playing in the corner of a pub beneath a sign that reads, ‘One Prosecco, Two Prosecco, Three Prosecco, Floor’. There’s no stage, and they’re competing with chatter from nearby tables and the clatter of balls on the pool table. Elaine Samuels is playing a guitar that looks less like an instrument and more like a piece of revolutionary fitness equipment, the kind of thing advertised on late night shopping channels. She also has what she describes as a “stinking” cold, but you’d never know.
Ostensibly a folk rock band with loftier ambitions than most — new album Phoenix Rising features a cover of America’s Horse With No Name that’s half reel, half supper jazz — Kindred Spirit’s songs tend to veer away from hey nonny nonny towards the bigger picture: science, fantasy, the future of humanity, that sort of thing. And while some of the lyrics might be considered trite, the music is genuinely ambitious, with thoughtful, grown-up arrangements. Samuels’ subtle guitar work underpins everything, while Martin Ash’s dazzling violin and Stevie Mitchell’s flute and sax lead the way. Ash is particularly entertaining, with a shaggy hair/beard combo and a proclivity for leaping about. It all sits somewhere between Solstice, Lindisfarne and The Moody Blues, and the first half highlights include the wistful, whimsical Children Of The Stars, and a version of Wolves At The Gate that feels genuinely cinematic, even in these surroundings.
The second half gravitates towards older material, with two tracks from 2005’s In The Doghouse and four from 2009’s Metamorphosis. During the latter’s title track, a battered ice bucket is ferried around the pub so the grateful may reward the band. There’s even some attempts at audience participation, with requests to pump fists as the rousing Best Days peaks, and to point at fellow punters during One More Day.
The climax comes with a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, and even the bar staff applaud. The crowd has thinned, and at this point Kindred Spirit appear to be playing as much for each other as for what’s left of the audience. They deserve better, but seem determined. “Give us a like or a share,” suggests Ash. “So we don’t feel friendless and miserable.”