15 September 2008
15 September 2008
Review by Andy Riggs
Gary Louris is currently in the UK on a mini tour promoting his excellent solo record â€˜Vagabondsâ€™. Louris and Mark Olson were the driving forces of The Jayhawks, until â€˜artistic differencesâ€™ split them. In addition to this was Markâ€™s decision to head off to the desert with this then wife Victoria Williams to create the Creekdippers. It would seem that hardened Americana fans struggled with the more mainstream Jayhawks songs following Markâ€™s departure and preferred the more introspective country doodlings of The Creekdippers. Personally I always preffered Garyâ€™s post Jayhawks music to The Creek dippers, probably because Mark shared vocal and song writing duties with the whining Victoria Williams.
Louris was on fine form tonight, at ease with the audience and showing a good sense of humour throughout the night, when asked to play â€˜Settling Downâ€™ Gary tried to remember the tune and lyrics â€“ eventually coming up with the goods.
The set is mixed between largely the new record, Jayhawks and Golden Smog songs. Richard Causon joined Gary for some of the songs on accordion (Richard played on â€˜Rainy Day Musicâ€™). The 90 minutes spent with Louris showed that he is one the finest singer songwriters to emerge in the last twenty years, and his voice and guitar picking & harmonica playing were superb throughout.
A packed Borderline sat entranced by his songs, and it was clear that his new songs sit side by side with the high standards set by his Jayhawks records and with a record planned with Olson on the horizon we have much to look forward to.
Review by Jonathan Aird
Buddy Guy is a blues legend, someone who rubbed shoulders with the greats of Chicago blues. He also was on the legendary Festival Express with The Band and The Grateful Dead amongst others. He does have a reputation for squandering his talent on crowd pleasing antics, but you can balance that against his latest album - Bring 'em in - which is as good a blues album as you are likely to hear this decade, and also his age indicating the arrival of "last chance to see" status, and it's no wonder that the Empire is a sell out tonight.
The support, Foy Vance, is another case of "never heard that name before". I did have a quick look at his webpage, the review quotes suggest good things - but his Blog is a bit worrying: he's not as amusing as he thinks he is. And this turns out to be the case on the evening. He's a one man band - guitar and boxes he can set up loops on. This is not a good sign, as it mostly leaves me cold watching someone sing "ooo...oooo...oooo" and then have it loop endlessly for the song, then add a little guitar strum that carries on for the next 4 minutes and so on. If you want a backing track them just set it up before you come on stage, 'cos all I can see is someone kneeling down on the floor fiddling with boxes. Or, better yet, if you want to sound like you've got a band then why not put a band together ? His redeeminmg feature is that he has a great blues-soul voice - a bit like Van Morrisson - but it's all a bit pointless if you're standing in the stalls 'cos most of the time he's invisible and all the passion and drama ebbs away into thoughts of "can he not sing standing up ? Is he just incredibly short ?" and the moment is lost.
Buddy Guy came on stage promptly at 9pm, with a band consisting of piano, drums, bass and back-up/2nd lead guitar. And it's straight into some great lively urban blues. Buddy is resplendent in a white cap and black shirt with huge spiral dots covering it, and intermittently I can see him - I look with envy on those smarter people who've got to the front of the lower circle. It's weird, I saw The National here from the stalls and had a great stage view, tonight it's all back of other people's heads. I put this down to the blues audience being predominantly male (and, for some reason, very short women who've got an even worse view than I have).
Buddy's playing is stunning, and his voice is as good as ever. Hoochie Coochie Man is great, as is Way Behind The Sun and we're all having a good time. Buddy does have a tendency to play up to the crowd pulling strange faces, joking with the front row, playing his guitar against his chest, above his head and so forth. He chats easily between songs, he chides himself for mistakes, he plays "copy that" with the piano man, and he gets the crowd calling out th "oh yeahs" and the "hmm-hmm-hmm-hmmms". It's a proper all in Blues Revue.
Sometimes squandering your talents on crowd pleasing antics is a good thing. I think this as Buddy disappears off stage still playing blistering stabs of guitar. Hmm, to my left is a door that gives stage access. I keep my eyes on it and as anticipated it opens and Buddy is off for a walk through the crowd. So, I do get to see the man very up close. He wanders on, playing all the while, stopping to sing to a "lucky lady". His white cap is just visible (it probably helps the guy with the radio mic' keep track of him) and it's clear that he's either heading for the toilets or the staff stairs to the lower circle. It's the stairs. Standing spotlit at the front of the circle, playing staccato bursts of guitar he is at last incredibly visible and - although he doubtless does this every gig - it is nonetheless impressive.
Then it's back to the stage and some guitar antics mixed in with nods to the blues greats - there's Boom-Boom as a nod to John Lee Hooker, he does a bit of Hendrix, and plays the guitar with his teeth, he makes a BB King flourish with a cloth then plays his guitar with this, he plays a bit of Creem (strange brew) and some "raunchy" blues , too hot for 1960's airplay. But it's as bitty as it sounds and although I can see he's fixing himself into his "historical" place in the Blues it's missing something by being a collection of snatches. He also mentions a new CD which sounds as if it will be a "covers" album.
He closes out the set with a moving Skin Deep, alluding to the racism he experienced as a young man, and pointing out that we're all the same under the skin. Then he's off stage and the band play on for a few minutes before winding up and also leaving. There is no encore, which is a bit of a let down as certainly some of the standards that might have been expected haven't been played. It'd be great to see him in a small club, but a good night nonetheless.
Review by Alan Ross
Having seen Kathleen at King Tuts on her last visit to Scotland promoting Back to Me I was keen to revisit that experience because it had been a scorcher. Surprisingly a number of people must have disagreed with that assertion because it was definitely a smaller audience. Thinking about it though, the promotion of the gig had been very low key and reasonably short notice as these things go. Still - it meant a great view and those of us who frequent King Tuts know it doesnt need to be packed to the rafters to create an atmosphere.
Anyway onto the show. Kathleen blindsided a few, no doubt, by opening the set with Mercury, off the Failer album. Not the barnstorming intro to a gig that would normally be expected but a low key yet emotional plea to "take me to the parking lot at the old high school" It came off brilliantly though - the hairs on the back of my neck stood at up at the plaintive, almost heartbreaking, vocals and the audience fell silent.
Then we cranked up into In State from Back to Me so we knew then Kathleen and her band were on form having honed their old material on the road previously. Her old pal Jim Bryson obviously enjoys his time with Kathleen and she has the added support of her husband Colin Cripps on guitar so they actually come across a close knit bunch. Even an amp blowing just brought wisecracks and cursing. The banter, like previously, was short but funny - the audiance were regaled with the making of her most recent video for "I Make the Dough and You Get the Glory" so we all know who Marty McSorley is now
Not thinking I might write a review my memory becomes a bit hazy on the full set list but Asking for Flowers came up pretty quickly and I have to ask where does she get the experience to have written lyrics that so beautifully capture the lost years supporting a disinterested partner - "dont tell me you're too tired, for 10 years I've been working nights" The lyrics might not be her life but they are certainly someone's.
Most of Asking for Flowers was played except, surprisingly, for the opening track Buffalo and Alicia Ross - which, I admit must be emotionally difficult to tackle live because of the subject matter. We also got one song left off the album (which she now regrets as she gets a kick out of playing it live) called I Cant Give You Up where her classical violin training was evidenced.
Oh Canada is my highlight of the new album and it is no coincidence that the influence of Neil Young resonates in that song and that the token cover version of the evening was Only Love Can Break Your Heart. If I were to offer one criticism it was that "Hockey Skates" was played at a more jaunty speed than committed to CD and so lost some of its poignancy and despair "Going down in the same old town down the same street to the same bar and the same old people saying hi and I don't care"
"Wanna go get high" she had sang at the start and the set finished with Back to Me which left me in that very place.
If you get a chance to catch her live I hope you take it as she does not disappoint. Comparisons with Lucinda Williams dont come into it for me as, in my view, the quality of Kathleens first three albums are vastly superior to Lucindas equivalent and Kathleen's lyrics transport you to the worlds of hustlers, conmen, crime and the mundanity of small town americana life.
A hugely talented girl that I hope will contribute to the americana scene for years to come.