It’s not often you get the chance to see an artist you like on consecutive nights in the same city. It’s also not often that for the cost of buying an album (that incidentally, I was going to buy anyway) you get to see a live show, meet the artist and get it signed. It’s also pretty rare that you get to see that same artist in a 200 capacity venue when the next time you see them it’s going to be on the main stage at the enormodome that is the O2. So all in all this has been a pretty unusual week so far!
Starting off with the record store signing, I turned up at Rough Trade East on Brick Lane on a fairly damp, miserable Tuesday night. Luckily the kind staff members opened the doors early and we duly collected our purchases and made our way to the back of the store, where the stage is set-up. With no support acts to worry about it was then just a case of waiting until show time. For anyone who is new to Margo’s music, and bearing in mind this was going to be pretty much the first listen to her new album, here are some things you should know. 1. When the first guy on stage is a pedal steel player you know that this isn’t your standard ‘modern’ pop-country show. 2. There’s a definite twang in the accent both spoken and sung. 3. The songs are riven with a degree of truth unlike many of the acts on the scene today (not certain if they utilise the 3 chords rule too). 4. She’s not afraid to take on the Country Music Establishment and certainly doesn’t bow down to them. 5. It’s all delivered with a level of sass unlike much I’ve seen before.
For her opener "Nowhere Fast", it seems like we’re off to a slow start, this is typical of Margo and recounts a snapshot of touring life. From there we’re straight in to the much faster "Don’t Say It", a great song, very well received. With a new album, and a fairly recent EP, this was to prove to be a night of discovery. Typically at a show like this you get to hear some of the highlights off the new album with a few older, more well known songs thrown in to the mix to keep the crowd happy. Not tonight, with only "Tennessee Song" from her first album on the set-list, Margo played for over an hour and treated us to every song off the new album, plus two from the EP. Her band of Lead Guitar, Bass Guitar, Pedal Steel, Keys and Drums was well drilled and provide powerful backing to her vocals. All in all this was a great introduction to the new music and clearly left me wanting more… luckily I was off to the Lexington the following night for just that!
And so to the Lexington and a buzz in the crowd as Margo took to the stage. I recognised a few faces who had been there the night before. So were we in for the same set, or something to mix it up a little? When the first two songs are the same you do begin to wonder, not that they were in any way a bad introduction… however this is where the set-list started to vary. With the howl that greets the start of "Tennessee Song" (played near the end last night) we were clearly into a different set. A couple more songs from the new album, "Learning to Lose" (a duet with Willie Nelson on the album), "Wild Women" and "Just Like Love" from her EP. We then had a well known song, that perhaps resonates even more in the wake of recent news stories, "This Town Gets Around", telling the story of many a young artist trying to make it in the business. After the rowdiness of this song the band were dispatched to the green room while Margo gave us the title track to the new album, "All American Made". This is a political song that resonates with the state of the world at the moment. This must have been a new song to 90% of the Lexington audience but to hear them joining in with chorus was something quite surreal and I think it even affected Margo. Bringing the band back for the song that first introduced me to Margo, the autobiographical "Hands of Time" proved another winner with the crowd, with "Pay Gap" to follow, a great way to highlight some of inequalities in the modern world. With a couple more new songs mixed in with some from the first album, including a blistering "Hurtin’ on the Bottle", the evening all too rapidly drew to a close. A 70 minute set on Tuesday followed by a 90 minute set on Wednesday and given the chance I’d go again the next day, and the next… C2C 2018 can’t come soon enough!