“My band’s a lot like this, but louder,” explained Simon Snaize after the first song of his set. That Band is Van Der Neer, who were supposed to be the first act on tonight. Apparently, they couldn’t all make the gig, so Simon kicked the evening off with a handful of acoustic versions of their songs. His vocals, strong and varying between Bluesy and almost soulful, were put to great use during the songs but hardly at all to introduce them, so I have little (if any) idea what tracks he performed. The first two were powerful rock songs, the third slower and more musically sparse, yet still building to a lively finish. The liveliness continued into the next track, whose vocals were a notch below what could have been described as “angry”. It was during this track that we noticed a second underlying sound coming from his guitar, something which prompted my gig buddy to wander forward on a scouting mission for pedals. He reported back that none could be seen, so how Simon produced such a great sound remains a mystery (to us non-musicians, anyway). Everybody Knows – the one song I did recognise from previous gigs – was different from the rest, less powerful and gave the feeling that it might be the track from the upcoming album that is released as a single, to draw more punters in. Simon ended his set with a cover, a darkly acoustic version of The Jesus And Mary Chain’s Snakedriver. It was a shame that the full band weren’t on show – I’ve still only managed to see them once – but, as ever, Simon proved that he can entertain an audience in his own right.
It is unusual for me to get past the mid-point of the year without having seen Boss Caine. It’s even rarer to be disappointed by on of his sets. Actually “disappointed” might not be the right word. It implies that I didn’t enjoy the set whereas, as usual, I did. The thing is, having supported Shooter Jennings in Manchester the night before, The Boss/Mr Caine/GT/Dan, playing solo for a change, had decided to play different tracks so that the people who had been at both gigs (and there seemed to be more than a few) didn’t hear the same songs twice. An understandable move but one that meant most of my very favourite tracks didn’t get an airing tonight. There was a no-nonsense opening to the set, with the audience apparently enraptured by the familiar chords and clear vocals of Sweet Sorrow Surrender. I don’t think I’ve seen the man get such a response from an audience in York before – totally quiet until the song ended, which drew forth cheers and whistles of appreciation. Today was Bobby Gentry’s 71st birthday, so it seemed a good choice to include Dean Street Devils, a song whose lyrics make reference to her. This was followed by Lady Macbeth and I started to realise that it had been so long that I was struggling to recognise the openings of the newer songs. There was no danger of that with Cocaine (at least, I think that’s what it was called) – I don’t actually think I’ve heard it played before. It included some great lyrics and, with an added touch of reverb – a sound that seemed to fit the subject matter. After the almost ever-present Leaving Victoria, GT explained that most of his songs were about his life or his bad habits and that the final song, Murder On My Mind, wasn’t about one of those habits… Yet. It’s a Jekyll and Hyde kind of song, both in the lyrics and the change of pace and style halfway through. So, a shorter than normal set, bereft of some of my favourites and featuring some lesser-played songs but no less entertaining. Let’s face it, you all know by now that I wasn’t actually going to be disappointed.
I grew up in a house in which Country music was pretty much all that was played (until I started buying my own records, anyway), but it was the easy-listening style of Country, as performed by the likes of Glen Campbell, Crystal Gayle and, the majority of my parents’ albums, Jim Reeves, who I grew to hate. More recently the popularised Country of Shania Twain was a guilty (and, thus-far, un-admitted) guilty pleasure, while the likes of Emily Barker have made it into my CD collection. Like most genres, I have probably heard of more Country musicians that I have heard. I was aware of Waylon Jennings, but knew nothing of his son, Shooter, beyond what I read on the Fibbers website. “Outlaw Country”, though? that sounds interesting, right? So I found myself in the diverse audience at tonight’s gig. Obvious Country music fans mixed with men and women sporting Heavy Metal patches and T-shirts. The young mixed with the old and it was obvious that some of the audience had been following Jennings, if not all the way up from Maidstone’s Ramblin’s Man Fair, at least from Manchester the night before. One group at the front seemed to know not only every word of every song – and were more than willing to sing along – but also every member of the Jennings entourage, exchanging hugs and even, it seemed, being invited backstage to meet the man himself. They also passed more than a couple of drinks up to him during the set.
So, what is “Outlaw Country”? Well, there was definitely a Country music sound but it was different to that I grew up with. The vocals were more raw, there was more of an edge, a bit of a snarl and many more facial contortions. Probably more whisky as well. Jennings rattled through a twenty-song set, bantering with the audience as he went along and opening proceedings with a cover of Bob Dylan’s Isis. Gone To Carolina brought forth big cheers and shouts from the audience, as did Some Rowdy Women, especially when one lyric was changed to reference York. It was, perhaps, the lyrics that at times defined the genre as well. The Song Is Still Slipping Away, about the hardships of a musician on the road, would never have featured on a Jim Reeves album, while both The Outsider and The Gunslinger seemed to be the antithesis of Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead Or Alive.
Jennings’ set was peppered with covers – he seemed relieved to get through a powerful acoustic version of The Ramones’ She Talks To Rainbows, while the slower Belle Of The Ball was one of his Dad’s songs. I’m told there was a Nirvana cover as well, but I didn’t spot it.
Outlaw You was one of the many songs that the front row fan-club joined in with, while newer song Don’t Wait Up (I’m Playing Possum), saw one audience member cheering and holding up a vinyl copy of the EP it had come from. Manifesto No. 2 saw an increase in speed and a venture into Country Rock, Jennings’ hair getting more and more dishevelled as he almost head-banged along to it.
There was more – I’m not going to describe every song – and we got the impression that there would have been even more but, three songs from what turned out to be the end of the set there was the unmistakable sound of a guitar string breaking. Jennings continued with the string dangling and dancing erratically during 4th Of July and one more song before leaving the stage and, somehow understandably, not returning. The set list the previous evening stretched to twenty two songs so, unless I missed a segue or two, we were two songs down. Still, an hour and a half of music, very good music at that, isn’t bad value.