13 September 2012
I bet the star of the show has rarely, if ever, been upbraided by the support act for turning up to work too early. But, hilariously, this happened at this utterly brilliant gig. Italian instrumental band with big hints to Ennio Morricone soundtracks, Sacri Cuori were about to play their final tune when Dan Stuart wandered into the bar carrying a glass of wine and two white, carrier bags. The band, smiling, said hold on a minute, or words to that effect, so the hombre from Oaxaca in Mexico stood to the side, sipped his wine and joined in the applause for the band’s superb set.
The spectre of Patti Smith may have been hanging over this gig in terms of ticket sales – she was playing a sell-out show round the corner – but those who elected to come here were privileged to be in the company of the former Green on Red stalwart. We were treated to a magnificent and intimate performance in every sense of the word, as Dan came over a bit like a preacher saying “gather round, people, I’ll be good for you.” And he really was.
Slowly but surely he opened with his old band’s 'Death and Angels' – guitar and vocals only that laid down a marker as to how glorious the rest of his set was going to be. The sublime rebuke of 'You Couldn’t Get Arrested' from 1989’s This Time Round came next and it floated along on guitar and accordion as smooth and comforting as a hot shower with a freezing lager to follow. Two songs down, two moments of sheer magic racked up.
When the band plugged in it was as if Son Volt and Richmond Fontaine on their uptempo numbers had entered the room and joined forces such was their spirit, verve and swagger shot through, too, with a delicious punk edginess. The knockabout drive of the chunky 'Zombie for Love' is a tune Dan clearly relishes performing from the Here Come the Snakes album while 'Two Lovers Waiting to Die' nodded big style to Crazy Horse and Neil Young with its beefy swings and welcome fluent bite of Antonio Gramentieri’s lead guitar.
The best thing about this 80-minute show was the unabashed fervour, intensity and commitment in every single song. There was an impish yet heartfelt passion, a drive to engage and a willingness to share his music with honesty and fun. I never caught Green On Red live, don’t have any of their CDs (now being rectified) but it didn’t matter one jot as Dan made me feel as if I’d been a follower for ever. I was won over with the sheer charm and magic of the man. New album The Deliverance of Marlow Billings is right on the money and 'What Are You Laughing About?' from it prompted Dan to invoke the memory of the great Joe Strummer as this is a song he could well have performed. But no-one could outshine Dan on this showing.
'Time Ain’t Nothing,' the opening track on the 1992 release Interesting and Dangerous, was the closer here. “Time ain't nothing; When you're young at heart; And your soul still burns,” sang Dan. Everything about him and Sacri Cuori was red hot and we basked in the glow, smiling and so, so pleased we had been there. Praise be to Dan.