Christopher Owens, Corey Bowen: Stanley Theatre, University of Liverpool

Chris Owens

Christopher Owens live in Liverpool

With a sound far from the music of his former band Girls, Getintothis’ Adam Lowerson sees Christopher Owens reborn in Liverpool. 

Christopher Owens’ career probably hasn’t gone in the direction most fans of Girls would have expected.

Having built his reputation making lo-fi garage sounds as part of the San Francisco duo, his new gospel rock direction might have taken people by a bit of surprise.

There were slight hints of gospel creeping in to Girls’ second album Father, Son, Holy Ghost, but not on the scale as on Owens’ latest solo effort A New Testament. A record hasn’t been well received, with reviews mixed but largely negative.

This tour therefore could serve as a bit of a ‘statement-maker’, to showcase his new direction and prove his doubters wrong – that’s if there even are any doubters among the 30-odd people present at the newly refurbished Stanley Theatre).

Despite the lack of an audience, Owens and his six-piece band give a warm, uplifting performance of a set made up mainly of tracks from A New Testament.

Lead single It Comes Back To You is a perfect example of the new country-influenced gospel rock and roll with its intricate guitars smothered in hammond organ, with Owens’ voice enveloped by his two gospel backing singers.

With the tracks from the latest album all of a similar style, only carefully picked hits from the Girls days find their way in to the set. Love Like a River is one of the lucky few, bringing a more delicate moment to the Memphis inspired feel to the night, but its classic American sound makes the transition seamless.

As the album title suggests, the religious connotations are plain to see in the music and lyrics, and the addition of the choir-like vocals could make it all seem a bit contrived.

However Owens is warm and unassuming, and although seemingly pretty shy throughout, makes the whole thing feel sincere and authentic.

His new direction might not be what the devout Girls fans were hoping for from the former frontman, but Owens certainly seems to have moved on. He may not be pushing any boundaries, and yes, some of it feels pretty cheesy, but it’s just no nonsense feel good music. It’s just a massive shame more people weren’t there to enjoy it the show, and the fancy new venue.

Support earlier on came from Middlesborough’s Corey Bowen, a young four-piece with genuine musical talent and skill, but maybe slightly lacking in the charisma department. Their sound is all groovy bass and a real Manchester guitar twang. Sadly it’s more Andrew Marr than Johnny.

Photos by Getintothis’ Tom Adam