Live Theatre (Newcastle, UK 9/22/11)
Local singer-songwriter and one time Punk Rock Dandy, Paul Handyside got the evening off to a surprisingly great start with his warm honeyed tones and clever songs about, groupies, love, death and redemption. Nothing new there you might say; but Handyside’s delivery and the sublime slide playing from his longtime sidekick Rob Tickell take him to a league well above his status as a support act. Think Richard Hawley with more charm!
Much to the audience’s surprise David Olney and the immaculately attired Sergio Webb spent a couple of minutes setting up their instruments on stage before Olney casually approached the microphone.
I was smitten from the opening grunt and a hollered “Alright!” followed by the ‘Woo Hoo’ which introduced A Girl Upon The Hill. Dave Olney famously describes himself as ‘less a singer, more someone who talks I tune’ and I can’t think of a better description.
As a late inductee to the World of Olney I was staggered at how he seamlessly moved from genre to genre within what we laughingly call Americana.
Turn This World Upside Down had a dark Gothic feel to it, but Sweet Poison which it segued into, was a charming Country tune featuring some amazing guitar playing from the afore mentioned Sergio Webb.
Dave Olney is not only a top songwriter but also a raconteur and his story leading upto his version of Tom Waits Clap Hands was drier than a cup full of sand and funnier than anything from Billy Connolly in the last 10 years. I was actually looking forward to hearing his stories but they were in short supply tonight as David felt compelled to cram as many songs in as possible to compensate for not visiting the combination North East for 10 years.
My favourite section of the night was the songs based on ‘Film Noir’ from the 1950’s; as I love Black & White gangster films and Robert Mitchum is a bit of a hero. Olney has got the mood of these films down pat and the three songs; especially Wisdom of the Ages need to be on a film soundtrack.
My favourite song of the evening was If I Were You which was introduced as ‘very nearly a love song.’ Let me tell you; it is a love song and for some bizarre reason I let my imagination run riot and felt that if Elvis was alive today this could be his next single.
This song was run a very close second by Red Tail Hawk which was surely Americana at it’s very best.
Another highlight (in evening of highlights) was the Zen story leading up to and then followed by the equally magnificent opus Women Across The River; with its’ Biblical qualities and superfluous guitar playing by the hirsute Webb on Fender Telecaster.
Speaking of Sergio and his guitar playing; he fluently eased from style to style – Twang, classical, Spanish, Tex-Mex, Folk et al and was a master in each. He may look eccentric but I would pay good money to see him alone, in concert.
The evening ended with a bizarre tune called the Lampshade Song, and everyone left with a smile on their faces. What more can you ask for?
Is David Olney the Leonard Cohen of the Americana Movement?