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As Georgia-based band Larkin Poe reach the last leg of their current two month European tour, the Lovell sisters Rebecca and Megan find themselves much sought after, not just on stage but off stage too, as a queue of journalists, friends and musical acquaintances lined up around the bar of the bustling Sheffield pub and music venue The Greystones tonight, each wanting just a moment in the company of this charismatic band before the show. Similar queues would later form after the show, as new and established fans also expressed similar desires.
Stretching out in the upstairs 'green room' which overlooks the city, Rebecca offers me a slice of cake, made by 'the woman in the black dress' as the singer would later point out from the stage. I declined the offer but took advantage of a recently washed wine glass on the draining board and some tap water before I settled down to catch up on things with two musicians whose names entered my vocabulary in the Spring of 2010, when Larkin Poe's debut recording the 'SPRING EP' first reached my ears.
Whilst Chesterfield's Grassoline opened proceedings downstairs, playing for a good half hour or so before tonight's sell-out audience, Larkin Poe's male contingent, which consists of drummer Chad Melton, guitarist Rick Lollar and bassist Robby Handley, busied themselves on various laptops on the landing, leaving the girls to do all the talking. You only have to be in the presence of the Lovell siblings for a few minutes before you are touched by their warmth. We're on first name terms now so that warmth is even more tangible as Rebecca and Megan fell effortlessly into conversation, despite almost certainly being affected by tour fatigue, which they cleverly and cunningly disguised tonight, listening intently to one another as each of them spoke, delivering considered and articulate responses, even if they have heard the same questions a million times already. At no point during our chat did I sense any indication of any pre-show nerves; these girls know their song well before they start singing.
That singing started almost immediately afterwards, as I made my way to my seat in the Backroom, where the quartet made their Sheffield debut. With Rebecca still displaying the lapel pins that she picked up at the Hebridean Celtic Festival right at the beginning of their current tour, the audience settled for the next ninety minutes as the band played just the one set. Performing songs from their latest release THICK AS THIEVES with one or two favourites from their back catalogue, songs that seem much older than they actually are if we remember that the band have only been in existence for just two and a half years. Starting with a newer song Jailbreak, the band soon found their pace and volume and provided a much rockier version of their show from those previously seen. The first Larkin Poe show I attended for instance had Rebecca playing the fiddle as I recall, and now gone is the dobro as Megan plays exclusively the electric lap steel throughout, with Rebecca alternating between acoustic guitar and mandolin on songs such as The Principle of Silver Lining, We Intertwine, Long Hard Fall and the gorgeous Trance.
With Megan's stoic and delightfully cool presence throughout the set, not only providing much of the grit in the rockier numbers but also the delicate sweet sounds on the more sensitive songs as well as her unmistakable sibling harmonies that no one else could possibly replicate, it's the sheer force of Rebecca Lovell's lead vocal that dominates any Larkin Poe gig as she delivers each song with everything she's got, never failing to reach the note that each of the lyrics deserve. Playing predominantly original material including the brand new Mad as a Hatter, with the occasional cover, which these days ranges from anything between Jim Reeves Am I That Easy To Forget and Jimi Hendrix Bleeding Heart, by way of Massive Attack's Teardrop, the band remain tight, ever evolving, exciting to watch and a joy to listen to.