ECHOBELLY back on tour, acoustic style

ECHOBELLY are known for their 90s britpop heyday, as a 5-piece band with plenty of sharp edges in their relatively guitar-heavy sound. But tonight at Surya, 9 years on from the band’s last offering “Gravity Pulls” (not counting their “best of” compilation), a wholly different musical fare is taking place.

Iconic vocalist Sonya Madan (looking fabulous) and guitarist Glenn Johansson are performing tonight under the name Echobelly as an acoustic duo, and the fans are out in force, curious to see how well electric songs such as “Great Things” and “Four Letter Word” translate into the acoustic.

Taking their seats, the duo open with “Something Hot in a Cold Country” which morphs easily from its original form into this slower, softer and stripped-down version. It’s an intimate, relaxed affair, and early on in the set Sonya asks the audience “French or English??” With a largely “French!” response, they launch into the French version of their famously bilingual track “Car Fiction.” Glenn Johansson adds a bit of distortion to his guitar sound for certain tracks, which brings a familiar bit of grit to the proceedings, and for a band like Echobelly it does feel needed, even in this environment with the band now 3 members down.

Having played a lot of material from 1995’s “On,” Sonya announces a newer song, “Down To Earth” from 2001’s “People Are Expensive.” It works better as an acoustic track than some of their earlier rawer material, being a largely acoustic track to begin with. But it’s not until late in the set that the first ‘singalong’ arrives in the form of “Four Letter Word” – from then onwards, the crowd really come into play, as “Great Things” follows, seeing Sonya turning the mic around to the audience for the chorus of “I wanna do great things, I don’t wanna compromise.” “Dark Therapy” is their last song of the set, which in this format bears a passing resemblance to Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” thanks to the guitar picking.

Fans demand an encore and Sonya concedes, straightforwardly piping, “You’re so kind, but my voice is fucked, so we can only do one more!” They close with “Father, Ruler, King Computer,” prompting a final singalong from a very satisfied crowd.

For those sceptical of this acoustic incarnation of Echobelly, it’s absolutely worth checking out. Expect something totally different but equally great to listen to.