Lionize at Black Heart, London - live review

Nuclear soul from the Maryland mavericks

Lionize live at Black Heart, London

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With his tight-fitting gold lamé T-shirt and matching trousers, Lionize frontman Nathan Bergman looks like a superstar schlub. He’s not a big guy, stocky maybe, but the tiny stage at the Black Heart pub barely contains him. It certainly can’t hold his voice – one part warthog bellow, one part raging croon.

American band Lionize share plenty of similarities with Clutch, their big-brother band from back home in Maryland. It’s there in the taut grooves, the sandpaper-and-honey sonics, their propensity to throw in the odd funky drum break. But they dig deeper and go further back too: the warm growl of a Hammond XK5 organ lends a vintage sound to their songs, even at their most bludgeoning.

Bergman is without doubt the stone-cold star of the show, unafraid to peel off some classic rock guitar heroics, complete with classic rock guitar hero moves and shapes. There’s a glint of madness in his eyes – ‘Don’t trust our government,’ he sings repeatedly at one point – but there’s also a streak of emotion a mile wide, not least on the epic blowout softwareuiphraseguid=“d1ac288e-764e-4f41-a02e-5597418d4143”>Ain’t That A Shame.

Lionize say reggae is a big influence on their brand of rock’n’roll, but on listening to them you’d be hardpushed to hear it. What they are, in all their raw, ragged glory, is a soul band in rock band clothes – gold lamé ones at that.

Dave Everley has been writing about and occasionally humming along to music since the early 90s. During that time, he has been Deputy Editor on Kerrang! and Classic Rock, Associate Editor on Q magazine and staff writer/tea boy on Raw, not necessarily in that order. He has written for Metal Hammer, Louder, Prog, the Observer, Select, Mojo, the Evening Standard and the totally legendary Ultrakill. He is still waiting for Billy Gibbons to send him a bottle of hot sauce he was promised several years ago.