In the late sixties, Marleena Shaw iconically sang about California Soul. Thirty-five years later, Thee Sacred Souls are making sure the torch for soul music from the Golden State is burning brightly.
The San Diego-based three-piece, signed to Daptone Records’ Riverside California based Penrose Records, have a timeless style of soul, full of love and loving, warm and poignant. Thee Sacred Souls’ blend of deft musicianship and sophisticated songwriting was displayed on Thursday, November 9th, as they played at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
The North-West London venue was sold out as Josh Lane on vocals, Alex Garcia on drums, and Sal Samano on bass took the stage. The band’s self-titled debut album was released in 2022 to much critical acclaim. Clash Magazine called it “a terrific mission statement, one fuelled by empathetic musicianship and terrific songwriting.”
While the music of Thee Sacred Souls is often velvety and smooth, their performance is full of energy. Within a few bars of the first song, Lane had launched himself onto the barricade to sing up close with the adoring crowd. The crowd belting back the lines of “Will I See You Again?” straight back to him.
Mid-way through the set, on “Running Away,” Lane launched into the crowd to dance the entire song with people standing on the floor. Even the slowest songs in their set are delivered with a grace that never makes it dull.
The show had some very poignant and touching moments. Ahead of “Sorrow For Tomorrow”, Lane shared how he had lost two close family members: one in a car accident, another to “senseless gun violence.” He also called for peace in Gaza as the venue was soaked in blue light to make the moment even more moving.
Thee Sacred Souls have managed the magic trick of fusing perfectly smooth West Coast soul music, inspired by the sixties and seventies, without feeling gimmicky or tired. They are a band who deserve every one of the many plaudits they receive. Let’s hope album number two comes soon!
Photographer Robert Alleyne was there to capture the sights!
Words + Photography by Robert Alleyne