Third on the bill, Top on the night!

Panic Room
Shepherd’s Bush Empire
15th May 2010

I guess it’s a sign of the times when three bands are required on the bill to three-quarter fill a venue the size of Shepherd’s Bush Empire but this is what we had tonight. Panic Room, a reasonably new band (2nd album just out) are third on the bill behind Mostly Autumn (darlings of the prog-rock set) and Wishbone Ash who have a forty year career behind them.

The evening’s events began not long after seven and continued until eleven and for this reviewer what started as a great night soon began to crumble because of the acoustics and sound reproduction limitations of the venue. But before there were those problems there was Panic Room delivering a tight and vital set which featured mostly songs from their new disc “Satellite”. The set was well-received by an audience who seemed to have come mainly to see one of the two better known bands on the bill.

Limited to only 35 minutes on stage, the band had to take the audience by the scruff of the neck and make sure they drew them into the music early and with “Freedom to Breathe” they did just that. It’s a melodic and memorable number which has vocalist Anne-Marie Helder asking that her personal space be observed as she struts around the stage with a demeanour which draws us all in. Mmm… interesting contrast between result and intent.

Panic Room have much of what it takes to move up to a higher level. They have thoughtful songs, full of deep lyrics and great rhythms and melodies with musicians who can all take up a solo when needed and a charismatic vocalist. Second number “Picking Up Knives” is about the culture of violence amongst teenagers and “The Fall” is an impassioned plea to a loved one to allow the narrator to take a share of the pain of life.

The band aside from Anne-Marie are all gifted musicians but they all need to work a little on stage presence. Visually, they are a bit of a one-trick pony and some thought needs to be given to how to get beyond that.

The ballad, Sandstorms which is from an EP which can be obtained with the new album is followed by another new song, Black Noise, full of great guitar work and ambience which feeds nicely into the closer, Satellite – one of the best new songs you are going to hear in any show.  Great chorus, memorable instrumental work. A real triumph.

It is a brave band that having only one album that is likely to be known to a small percentage of their audience, ignore that album completely and dish up a feast of brand new material. Panic Room did that and the audience were given their fill.

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