Striking Matches

June 25, 2018
Bush Hall, London

“I just love London more than anything, I’ll be honest”
When Sam Palladio stepped onto the main stage at Black Deer festival, it was a welcome surprise to see Striking Matches’ Sarah Zimmerman in his band shredding up a storm. He returned the favour by stepping up as support for the duo’s sold out show at London’s Bush Hall.

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This was quite a coup for the fans crammed into the sumptuous old theatre, many of whom had recently seen him at the cavernous O2 arena as part of the Nashville farewell tour as well as at the sizeable festival.

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It was noticeable that the crowd was more diverse in age and gender than at the average UK country/Americana show. That’ll be the Nashville effect. Palladio made references to his TV character, Gunnar, which the crowd lapped up…until he accidentally dropped a huge spoiler!

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Reprising one of the highlights of Black Deer festival, Cassadee Pope joined him for a Nashville duet. Hot damn, she’s got pipes!

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Overall, though, the Bush Hall performance was a world away form the energetic festival and arena shows and, dare I say, better for it. Though his band was involved, the focus was very much on Palladio’s voice.

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He may have got his start as an actor but he’s clearly loving returning to his homeland as a musician.

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With this stripped back set of songs like Hello, Heartbreak Blues and Ghost (co-written with Biffy Clyro) it was clear he was taking his performance very seriously. Thankfully, there were still plenty of opportunities for Palladio to flash that beaming smile when interacting with Pope, the band and the dedicated fans.

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Sam Palladio will be one of the highlights of Nashville Meets London on July 28 in Canada Square Park, Canary Wharf. He’s due on at 7:15 and it’s free! 

“You insatiable music zombies!”
Striking Matches were surprised to discover just how many people had come from that weekend’s Black Deer festival in Kent to their Monday night show in London.

Given their harmonies and Sarah Zimmerman’s jaw-dropping guitar work during a songwriters’ round with Sonia Leigh and Sarah Darling, the pair lending their skills to The Wandering Hearts’ set, Zimmerman’s memorable turn in Sam Palladio’s band on the main stage and Striking Matches’ own Friday night headlining slot, it wouldn’t be surprising if *their* insatiable music zombie tendencies were responsible for as many ticket sales as the Nashville connection.

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Having had nine songs featured on Nashville over four seasons, that connection was strong. The crowd went wild when any of them were played, even before Sam Palladio and Cassadee Pope stepped up for a four part version of I Ain’t Leaving Without Your Love.

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Striking Matches’ new songs were greeted with glee too. It quickly became clear that whether playing a familiar song or a nursery rhyme, Zimmerman and Davis would slay it with stunning guitar work and harmonies for days.

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Early on, Davis put his diplomatic skills to work to encourage more singing to Medicine: “that was really good and really…polite!”

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It was the exception that proved the rule. As the show (and the room) heated up, the fans sang along relentlessly, even to Movies which had only be played once before, at Black Deer festival. To be fair, it was a hella catchy tune with a 50s retro vibe.

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The laughter rang out as the pair discussed Zimmerman’s epic catsuits. When she recalled “I was wearing less than this” at Black Deer, Davis piped in with “me too!”

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Her outfit wasn’t custom-made, but it may as well have been; sleeveless with a little cape to let fly when shredding on the guitar. When she dropped a pick she realised it had one drawback: “I can’t really bend over in this one!”

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Zimmerman’s slide guitar parts were simply phenomenal – that much was clear.

With all the amps and equipment around, most of the crowd would have missed one impressive detail: she operated the pedals and kick drum in killer heels.

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Don’t get me wrong, what a woman wears on stage isn’t particularly notable…unless she’s proper badass with it!

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Perhaps the Nashville crowd that aren’t out seeing live music every night weren’t aware quite just how good they had it to witness a guitar masterclass during *every* song. Take it from the number of professional musicians in the crowd, including Sarah Darling, Jenn Bostic, Tim from The Wandering Hearts and Ben Earle from The Shires. They knew this was something extraordinary.

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It turned out that Davis and Zimmerman met in a guitar seminar. Can you imagine how tough that must have been for everyone else in the class: ‘Ummm, I was really thinking about taking up the bass anyway…’

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They paid forward a little bit of music education, explaining that Zimmerman’s mandolin was not a mini guitar.

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Then, as if to satisfy demand, they whipped out a tiny guitar in its place. Anyone familiar with Butch Walker’s live show knows that “little guitar means party.” It sure did mean that in Zimmerman’s hands!

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With the array of instruments in stage, it was easy to forget that there were just two people producing such a full sound. They switched effortlessly between electric licks, country rock, down-home blues and…90s pop.

Yes, they slipped in a delightfully distinctive cover of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up. I’m not sure whether to be disappointed with myself that I recognised it quite so quickly or with the majority of the crowd that couldn’t place it until the chorus. Possibly both!

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Throughout the show Davis and Zimmerman exchanged amazed looks and grins in response to the fans’ reactions. It was clear that the pair were, in equal parts, thrilled by and humbled by the warm welcome they received half a world away from home: “This night is so indescribably special!” It was as if they thought *they* were the ones that were lucky to be there.

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In a way, it’s a shame we were spoiled by five appearances by one or both of them in four days. How are we supposed to come to terms with the fact that these guys aren’t actually in every band? Come back soon, y’all!

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Luckily, they took heed of the support they have in the UK, so when they came back for a set at SummerTyne festival, they added a couple of extra dates in t’North. Head to Manchester on July 23 or Liverpool on July 24 if you can! Details: strikingmatches.com/#/tour

Like what you see? There are more photos of the show over on Flickr. Please follow me there, and here:

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