Colter Wall / Ian Noe Bush Hall
Rarely will the sound man at Bush Hall have had an easier night, with the stage bare apart from one microphone, and one guitar pedal, one imagines that not long was required to perform the soundcheck. The only other thing on stage was a folded up chair that no-one would use in a display of singer songwriting quite unlike anything else I've ever seen before in it's unrelenting darkness of subject matter, i'm sure the lyrical body count must have been in the twenties by the end of the show if not more
Opening proceedings was Ian Noe from Eastern Kentucky, with a style reminiscent of early Dylan and a stage persona that was not going to crack into a smile at any stage and a stare that looked far out into the distance, with a delivery at times not far short of venomous.
Some songs were startling like "Dead On The River" with its hauntingly beautiful guitar line under a chilling confession of murder that gradually unfolds. There can be few tales of woe like "The Last Stampede" absorbing if slightly disturbing! The show had started with the seemingly cheery guitar line of "I'd Rather Be Over You" counteracted against the somewhat downbeat lyrics while the hitchhiker tale "If Today Doesn't Do Me In" maintained a similar mood .
There were songs about a derailed train, an alcoholic cousin "Irene" and "POW Blues". Despite this somewhat seemingly depressing selection of subjects we did find Ian strangely addictive and his 10 song set passed by rather quickly.
Colter Wall's last London show was a sold out performance at the Lexington, tonight sees him selling out a venue three times the size, a few months later in the midst of a European tour. A large chunk of London's Canadian residents seem to have come out to see one of their own and there are a number of hats on display, more than at your average show but the only other reason seemingly behind this sudden tsunami of interest in Colter Wall is the appearance of his song "Sleeping On A Backtop" in the film "Three Billboards In Missouri".
Taking to the stage in a relatively low key manner, and opening with "Thirteen Silver Dollars" the first thing that hits you is the remarkable voice that comes out, that at first glance doesn't seem to fit the person singing, it seems enormous as if belonging to a giant, with a deep richness that has the power to surprise, even if you have heard his songs previously. The records have little instrumentation on them, tonight it is just him and a guitar, no effects pedals and yet within seconds the audience are singing along. The end of the song is greeted with Yelps and yeehaws. The subject matters get no cheerier, "Codeine Dream" has him "crying on a motel floor", while "You Look To Yours" details bar room encounters with a " Girl in Saskatoon" and "Nashville Honkytonkin Queen". It comes to something in an evening when the cheeriest song is a new song "John Byers" about two guys who end up shooting their "69 Cameros". It is of course "The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie" that draws the audience into a massive sing and clap along.
The new material shows no great change in direction but they sound even better on first listen, the homesick tale of "Plain To See Plainsman" particularly had the feel of a Marty Robbins song about it while the true story of a gas station being used as a front to sell drugs, "One Last Stop" was undoubtedly one of the songs of the night, while the decline in America railroads was detailed in "Trains a Gone". The end of the night came as expected with "Sleeping On The Blacktop" which saw a thunderous stomping take over Bush Hall. The audience throughout the evening although furiously cheering each song were also prone to be a bit noisy, whether this had any effect on Colter Wall, it's hard to say but when he left after the main set there was no return for an encore.
Colter Wall returns to London on August 29th for a show at The Scala