Striking Matches - The Stables, Milton Keynes

From Bristol's indie The Fleece through Manchester's venerable Deaf Institute and London's spiritual Union Chapel, to Milton Keynes' sedate auditorium The Stables Striking Matches first UK tour has seen them take in the full diversity that is the Great British venue. And all in the name of building on the considerable goodwill that their invigorating and buzz worthy turns at March's Country To Country festival gained them.

Hot on the heels of their debut record Nothing But The Silence, the Nashville duo’s return to the UK has been much anticipated. But as good as that record is they’re a band that really come live on stage. With a midweek crowd that’s the least lively this side of Milton Keynes cemetery, it takes some show to get a double standing ovation at the end, but one thing that Justin Davis and Sarah Zimmerman do is bring the show.

A Striking Matches show is a whirlpool of joyous emotions; sheer pleasure and unadulterated happiness abound - though there are times when the duo push their furious guitar picking to such physical extremes that you fear for the future of their hands and arms, never mind the instruments themselves. The first casualty of the evening happens roughly a minute into the opening song, a fiery and intense ‘Trouble Is As Trouble Does’, when Zimmerman snaps a string and turns to one of their two spare guitars.

For the closing night of this tour the twosome are on top form, whether it’s guitar drumming on ‘He Only Loves Me When It’s Raining’ with its manic, goosebump-inducing guitar break, twisting the sound of a mandolin to never-before-heard heights on ‘Miss Me More’, or their gorgeous harmonies on ‘Nothing But The Silence’. The beauty of their performance is that they fully commit to everything - Zimmerman singing the exquisite, stripped back ‘When The Right One Comes Along’, or Davis going all-in on the extraordinary thrill that is the coda to ‘Never Gonna Love Again’ ("I blacked out there for a moment").

Anyone not acquainted with Striking Matches has another opportunity later this year as they have a long list of UK dates in November. If you listen to one piece of advice this year let it be this: book your ticket now.

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