Live in London
Words by Claire Weston Photos by Hels Bels Photography
Not many artists can walk on to a stage and do justice to Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton and Elvis among their collection of self-penned songs. Striking Matches did just that last night at Shepherds Bush Empire. With the audience already clapping along to the beat of the drum, singer-songwriter and guitarists Justin Davis and Sarah Zimmermann emerged on stage surrounded by smoke and flashing lights. They kicked off their set with Trouble Is As Trouble Does, immediately setting the atmosphere for the rest of the night with its catchy melody.
As Sarah tuned her guitar for the next song, she warmly introduced herself and Justin, before asking the audience if anyone was at their first Striking Matches gig, welcoming them and welcoming back the familiar faces. The set was broken up with several anecdotes between songs, and it felt more like watching friends up there on the stage. They thanked fans for winning their first ever award – a 2015 British Country Music Award for International Act Of The Year – with Justin joking that he had never won anything before, not even bowling. Not only are Striking Matches incredible musicians but also such gracious and humble people. They both thanked the audience often during the set and expressed how at home they felt.
Their set covered many tracks from their debut album ‘Nothing But The Silence’, which was produced by T Bone Burnett and released earlier this year, including Never Gonna Love Again and Missing You Tonight. Combining fantastic melodies and guitar playing that could equal veteran rock stars, the duo delivered breathtaking music from start to finish. Striking Matches have now had 8 of their songs used in the TV show ‘Nashville’, with Hanging On A Lie, I Ain’t Leavin’ Without Your Love and When The Right One Comes Along all appearing in their set. It’s always magical hearing the latter live, with the audience stunned into silence before joining in, in perfect harmony. They encouraged audience participation while debuting a new, edgier song, and also brought support act John and Jacob out for a stunning cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Never Going Back Again, which showed off the talents of all four musicians.
Ending their main set with the infectious Make A Liar Out Of Me, and yet more phenomenal guitar playing, Striking Matches have definitely established their mix of country, rock and blues into the world. Leaving the stage to roaring cheers and applause, they were quick to come back on for an encore. Eric Clapton’s Change The World was a perfect choice given recent events, and then finishing with a cover of Can’t Help Falling In Love, which they previously recorded for the BBC, as part of a musical tribute to Elvis.
Every Striking Matches show leaves me in absolute awe of their talent, and this show was no exception. They return to the UK in March, to play the Yamaha Music Stage at C2C Festival in London.