Jonny Payne and the Thunder – 26/1/17 – The Cellar, Oxford
Oxford, clearly restless after laying dormant for a number of years, has begun spewing out a multitude of extremely talented musicians whose originality, diversity and professionalism is borderline overwhelming. Jonny Payne and the Thunder are certainly no different, fusing their unique brand of Americana with traditional rock ‘n roll values and in doing so bridge the gap across the Atlantic in a most stylistic and nuanced manner.
Payne’s pedigree is certainly that of an established Oxford musician having always been a huge part of the local scene and his decision to go it alone must be accredited for its bravery, given the multitude of previous incantations he has been involved in. His music touches base with a plethora of different ideologies and genres, one minute folksy ballads and the next all out rock ‘n roll and we are treated to a performer who has certainly found his feet as a solo artist and understands what he wants out of his music. His propensity for nostalgic sensibilities is particularly engaging, many of his songs seemingly written with the hindsight of journeys travelled and people left behind.
His band, The Thunder, hold court beautifully as a rigid rhythm section allowing Payne to meander and pitch bend his way around the fret board and the evening’s entertainment is truly delightful, never arrogant or over complicated, and carries with it an all encompassing accessibility which charms and intrigues a packed out Cellar.
There seems to be real momentum to Payne’s new direction and the band seem to have a symbiotic understanding of what they wish to accomplish musically, music that clearly means a lot to Payne, the emotion in certain tracks palpable and thought provoking, and the character and personality of the performance are more than enough to suggest that the band have a real opportunity to make inroads into the business.
In an era when so many bands are embracing niche and atypical genres, it seems only fitting that Payne finds inspiration from far off lands, although to accuse him of overly idolising would be reductive as he brings his own charisma and temperament to the genre. What is particularly impressive is that we continue to see Oxford artists willing to push boundaries musically, and with the Thunder behind him, Jonny Payne has created lightning fast admiration and a whirlwind of anticipation.