Neverlnd, Jacqueline Du Pré Music Building, Oxford. Published in Oxford Times 30/4/16
There have been whispers and murmurs for some time about a young but promising band, Neverlnd, who perhaps have the qualities to make real inroads into the music scene on both a local and national stage. Any opportunity to see fresh, indigenous talent is always a privilege and with other Oxford based acts starting to prick ears and turn heads, there seems to be some much needed momentum to Oxford’s music scene, evidence the sleeping giant of British music is once again beginning to stretch its tired limbs after a short stint in purgatory. Neverlnd, previously Balloon Ascents, certainly fit the bill in terms of home-grown talent, despite still being teenagers they have been playing around Oxford for over three years and, judging from the sold out Jacqueline Du Pré music building, have already amassed a loyal fan base.
Although the show started somewhat hesitantly, the lads taking a little while to warm to their intimate surroundings, it is evident that there is something very intriguing and genuine about this young ensemble. The strength and deferential vulnerability of lead singer Thomas Roberts’ vocals alone is compelling, his soulful and honest approach to his art betraying his limited years and there’s real cohesion in the four or five part harmonies which subtleties work effectively in the more stripped back numbers. There is perhaps at times a slight issue in regards confidence and as impressive as the methodology of musicianship is, you do feel they need to shake off that awkward teenage self consciousness and believe a little more in their performance. To truly win an audience over there are times when the whole band needs to show pride and emotion in the music they create but undoubtedly that will come with more experience of performing live. Highlights of the evening include Where Do I Start and We Don’t Talk Like We Used To, two of the groups more polished and distinguished compositions and the show really comes alive when Roberts sits at his piano and calls attention to his evocative, sensitive song writing capabilities.
It would be wildly erroneous to suggest that Neverlnd are the finished article and set for an immediate assent into the limelight. There are a few tracks which need to be gagged, bagged and thrown off a bridge with sandbags attached and at times there is still an unshakable feeling we are witnessing a high school band playing at the end of year assembly. But there are certainly glimpses of a group that have an abundance of ability and exciting prospects on the horizon. They appear to have already found a sound that is distinct and personal which is often half the battle but it’s now about developing these attributes in the hope they can turn unbridled potential into definitive craft.