I don’t normally review one-off events but some are so special that they need some form of reportage applied to them.
Northsyde appearing at the Harlington Centre in Fleet falls very much into that category.
There is a story behind this show. Jules Fothergill and Lorna Fothergill first came to my eye when they were together in Roadhouse. They split to form the short lived Funkydory which them became Northsyde. As Northsyde they began to get a strong following and both were deeply involved in the Blues scene in the south as well.
Last January (2019) they played a show at the Harlington after which it was announced that Jules had been diagnosed with cancer and indeed died shortly after, leaving Lorna and all their fans and the musicians they had been involved with for years devastated.
It was Jules dying wish that they continued as a band with the then 15 year old prodigy Marcus Praestgaard-Stevens of whom he had seen a remarkable talent from a very young age, taking Jules role as guitarist.
The gig at the Harlington was Alex Robin’s – the venue manager – idea and he gave the band the date in honour of Jules as the Harlington was the last time that we all played together. He has also stated that if the band desires, they can have that date every year.
And so, it came to pass on Saturday. After a brilliant set by Hooson-Maguire (more later) the hall was packed and an expectant buzz went around the sold out crowd until Northsyde hit the stage and ripped out a dazzling set that was no natural and so emotionally charged that no-one could have left the hall that night without knowing they had experienced something very special.
Marcus took the stage with Jules gift to him of Jules own Gibson 355 and began to rip out Blues with a sense of funk and drive that really would have made Jules proud. Marcus is developing into a superb guitarist and he really has his own take on the Blues – he was playing Jules Fothergill’s music on Jules’ guitar but still imprinting it with his own identity.
The band had tried previously to add keyboardsman Jules Grudgings to their roster and now he joined them on-stage as a permanent member of the band.
Lorna came onto the stage and, while she was still very emotional, tore out a stunning vocal performance. Her voice is that of a classic Blues/Soul singer – she reminds me very much of Lydia Pense but with a really earthy and powerful presence. Taking her usual position at the right of the stage she was still the absolute focal point of the band and it was difficult not to focus on her.
They played around an hour and a half, the crowd willing them on and on and as a performance it was brilliant but add on the emotion charged in the air and the night was more than special.
Hopefully the band will continue with Marcus on guitar. They always had the potential to be one of Britain’s brightest Blues/funk bands and they can carry Jules legacy forward to the same standard that he wanted.
Opening on the night were Hooson-Maguire (previously The Paddy Maguire Band) and they laid down an absolutely rock solid set of originals and standards. Jenna Hooson is a Blues belter of the old school, powerful voice and real presence. She prowls the stage and belts out songs alongside her guitarist husband Paddy Maguire. I’ve heard about them before and they really did give the crowd something to enjoy. I’ll be watching out for them in future.
A wonderful night and everything about it was both respectful and joyous. As a send off for Jules Fothergill it was really fitting.