Live Reviews | 2011
06 December 2011
With a scheduled eight hours of music over two rooms plus an acoustic stage curated by the venue, American10 was more of a mini festival than an all dayer or gig. All aspects of the UK Americana scene was covered from the folky City Shanty Band and Ratty Little Fingers;to the singer song writers Jason McNiff and Quiet Loner (with his unlikely to ever be repeated and specially commissioned rendition of Boston’s ‘More Then A Feeling’); the country rock of Redlands Palomino Company, The Lucky Strikes and Case Hardin through to the Springsteen inspired epic songs of headliner Danny and the Champions of the World. Unless you fasted all day and had a cast iron bladder seeing everyone was impossible so D W Hesketh concentrated on the American acts: Richmond Fontaine, Mark Eitzel and Richard. John Hawes
I have watched and met Richard Buckner on several occasions in Manchester and New York. My son and daughter had been with me on two of these occasions and his accapella singing of ‘Leave And Travel Well’ is impaled on all of our memories, as is ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ on a broken down harmonium. He was always polite, charming and interested. A sweet man and, except perhaps for the addition of braids, he looked the same as in the Mercury lounge. His performances never fail, he is a singular presence. I think it was Michael Stipe that suggested that the fact that Richard can perform at all gives you faith in the idea of music as a business. His throaty voice is an ‘acquired taste’. Never fully understood the phrase, is there a taste that isn’t acquired? What I love about his performances is his total focus, lyrically and through that tightly strung guitar he sings as if his life depends on it. It probably does. The other musicians, especially the Italian be-hatted guitarist right of stage were exemplary.
American Music Club have always intrigued me, especially the pivotal role of Mark Eitzel. The song ‘Johnny Mathis Feet’ is an example of perfect songwriting as far as I’m concerned; priceless. The introduction honed in on the potential for a master songwriter and again he delivers, ‘Western Sky’ straight in! I was fascinated by the position of the microphone. I have never seen anyone sing like that! He held it against his lower chest as if he was about to sing and wailed, again as if his life depended on it. A rapt audience, as far as I could tell, allowed him to prowl the very front of the stage precariously. Almost feral and not quite threatening this was definitely more like a bout than a serenade. His fellow musician, considerably younger, did well to pick up the tiny nuances as guides, even when one song fell apart, and you did think this might not be the easiest man to accompany. He did seem very fit considering, that he had a heart attack earlier this year. All in all, it was an inspiring confirmation of a performer at some sort of peak.
I had seen the full version of Richmond Fontaine in the Academy on Oxford Road about three years ago and they seemed a very seamless road band with a massive repertoire and an intuitive understanding of each other. These two seemed to be the bedrock of that band. Vlautin sings like a writer and writes like a singer and Dan Eccles seemed to relish the challenges Willy gave him as the gaps in each mini-saga presented him with the opportunity to hammer the strings, the pedals, the guitar body or all three at once. It was convincing, authentic and performed with a natural grace; fabulous.