If you decided to compile a list of notable musicians from Montrose, it wouldn’t be a particularly long list. Molly Duncan of the Average White Band is perhaps the biggest name but I suspect there will soon be a new name for the town to celebrate. Ben Walker headlined Church in a rather snowy Dundee on Friday the 16th of December and those in attendance witnessed a true star in the making.
Opening the night was 15 year old Lucas Burns who was performing a solo acoustic set. I have to say just how impressed I was with the youngster. Performing on your own is terrifying enough but to be doing so at 15 takes a huge amount of guts. Yet if he had any nerves, he certainly didn’t show it playing a mix of original songs and covers before leading the crowd in a sing-along of Oasis’ ‘She’s Electric’ to close his set. Lucas definitely seems like one to keep an eye on.
Manchester born Neeve Zahra was up next to provide the crowd with some country flavour. Whilst I’m not a huge fan of the genre I was completely blown away by this performance. Neeve’s voice is remarkable and her lyrics are fantastic but it wasn’t just the front woman grabbing the attention. The harmonies between Neeve and her guitarist and bassist were exceptional and some of the guitar solos on show were just spectacular. Towards the end of the set we were treated to a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rhiannon.’ An absolutely spine-tingling cover and Neeve gives Stevie Nicks a run for her money on this one. The set closer “Car Crash” was also a very Fleetwood Mac sounding track complete with more exceptional guitar solos. A truly impressive set.
Local 5-piece Ruvellas were the evening’s penultimate act, kicking off with some very Oasis styled rock ‘n’ roll. Moving further into their set I found the boys to be something of a mix of britpop era Oasis and The DMA’s. There was some very nice guitar playing on show, slick riffs and solos aplenty. It’s a tight and together sound but not so much that it sounds plastic and manufactured. After all, rock music is supposed to be a little dirty. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite find the names of the lads but I have to single out their frontman who has a real Julian Casablancas quality to him when he puts the guitar down. No doubt we’ll be seeing more of Ruvellas in 2023.
Finally, the headliner, Ben Walker. It was a set of mostly cover songs which included the likes of Kings of Leon, Catfish and the Bottlemen and Sam Fender. Those were all fantastic, there’s no denying that but it’s Ben’s original tracks that are truly the highlights of the set. Ben gives a brief explanation of “Just A Boy” written alongside The View’s Kyle Falconer, it’s about having a tough time dealing with being bullied in his younger days. It’s the honesty in his writing that makes this one, I genuinely can’t wait until there’s a studio version. Ben’s signature track “High Tower” was second to last, it’s a top track that has over 40,000 plays on Spotify. I’d encourage everyone to give it a listen, you won’t be disappointed. The group briefly left the stage before returning to end the evening with a rendition of Oasis’ ‘Morning Glory.’
Whilst it’s evident Ben is a fan of Sam Fender, covering his tracks ‘The Dying Light’ and ‘Hypersonic Missiles,’ as well as songs that Sam is known to cover himself, it’s impossible not to compare the two. Ben just has that same likability that has made Sam Fender a superstar. The down to earth attitude, the genuine happiness on his face throughout the entire set, the interactions with the crowd you just can’t help but want him to succeed. His voice is just as exceptional as is his songwriting. This lad is going places, no doubt about it.