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Striking Matches, Royal Festival Hall, London live review

The duo opened for Clare Bowen on her UK tour last night.

Striking Matches
Credit: Capitol Records

Sarah Zimmerman and Justin Davis – AKA Striking Matches – met in guitar class at university in Nashville, where they began honing their performance and songwriting talents. However, it wasn’t until their song When The Right One Comes Along was used on the TV series Nashville that the duo came to wider attention. They ended up with nine songs featuring over the drama’s six seasons and released their debut album, Nothing But The Silence, in 2015. Recently they’ve been working on new music and last night they were in London supporting Clare Bowen on her UK tour.

Sarah and Justin arrived on stage shortly after 8.30 and launched into Retrograde, the title track from their recent EP. It’s a funky number which gave Sarah a chance to show off her impressive slide guitar playing and highlighted the duo’s excellent harmonies, particularly in the a capella section towards the end where they hit a huge note in perfect unison. They also had a rapid-fire guitar face-off in the bridge and it was clear they enjoy playing together.

Throughout the performance both Sarah and Justin got chances to shine. Whether it was Justin’s powerful, John Mayer-esque lead vocals on Make A Liar Out Of Me or Sarah’s sweet yet bluesy tone on the defiant Shameless, they sound just as good individually as they do together. They also kept the energy high throughout, frequently encouraging the crowd to clap and sing along on songs like Medicine with its driving rhythm and heavy chords.

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I also liked that the duo showed off their versatility as guitar players, looking as comfortable picking an acoustic as they did going full throttle on their electric guitars. Sarah in particular must be given credit for her full-throttle playing as they jammed together; often her fingers were moving so fast that they became a blur!

Sarah and Justin closed their set with a cover of Robert Johnson’s Crossroads. The fast-paced song had a great classic rock feel and plenty of soulful was, particularly from Justin’s vocals. Both of them fully went for it, with Sarah shredding her guitar towards the rattling, frenetic finale, and they both seemed completely lost in the music. After an epic outro and some great guitar riffs, the crowd cheered and applauded thunderously in response.

Overall Striking Matches delivered a stellar performance which showed off their incredible guitar playing, gorgeous harmonies and on-stage chemistry. The pair of them just ooze cool and clearly have a lot of fun playing together, and it all added up to a fantastic start to the evening. My only complaint was that the set was too short!

Set list: 1. Retrograde 2. Medicine 3. Make A Liar Out Of Me 4. Shameless 5. Crossroads Performance date: 12th September 2018

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