Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Karla Milton Collective – Bookmark Theatre, Bloxwich. 18th May 2012

After the recent albums, videos and heavy gigging schedule of DC Fontana in recent years, I felt that finally they had got a really good line-up and sound together. Thus, I was somewhat surprised to hear that two of their most prominent personnel, Karla Milton and Steve Trigg, were leaving at the end of 2011 to pursue their own musical objectives - potentially a huge risk.

After over 4-months of putting together their own line-up, writing new material and rehearsing a new stage set, here they were back on stage for the very first time as The Karla Milton Collective (at, incidentally, the same venue that they played their final DC gig). This very nice theatre was absolutely jumping with a crowd eager to see what this new band has to offer.

Following some moody backing music, down went the lights and the drummer kicked into life in front of a digitised screen of images. On, one by one, came the bass player, guitarist, percussionist, keyboard player, and brass section – each joining in the rhythm and melody of the Steve Trigg penned instrumental, “Finally I See The Light”, a great soul stomper that got the crowd to life. As the applause continued, on came Karla Milton and the band launched into “Hiding in the Shadows which she co-wrote with Steve. Following the excellent ‘Jack is Back’ they performed a re-working of Karla’s “Benny” which they had played previously with the DCs. Next up was a cover of Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Bottle” in which Tim Nightingale switched from sax to flute to great effect.

The sound of The Karla Milton Collective is jazz tinged soul; occasionally moving towards the funkier end of soul spectrum. With Karla’s gyrations and a very lively brass section, they are visually energetic to watch on stage as well as soul stompers aurally, and musically they are a very proficient outfit. The sound mixing was excellent and the crowd really got behind them.

Another superb instrumental followed, allowing Karla to make a mid-set costume change, and they were back to their 9-piece line-up to take us through “Sphynx” (originally by The Brand New Heavies) and another half a dozen originals, including the excellent “Don’t Let The Cat Out Of The Bag” and “Onwards and Upwards”. Leaving the stage to rapturous applause, they were soon back for the delicate “Songbird”, with percussionist Jo Butler switching to 12-string acoustic, and the final rousing cover of Mother Earth’s “Mr. Freedom”.

18 songs were performed tonight, 13 of them original compositions, on what was a successful return to the stage by Steve & Karla under The Karla Milton Collective moniker - the future certainly looks bright for them.

Strangely though, there are no other confirmed dates yet for more shows, and no official recordings available either. But when the time comes and the shows are announced, get your ticket booked and prepare yourself to be thoroughly entertained.

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