Israel leads his people to the promised land: Israel Nash at The Islington, London
Israel Nash is over here, accompanied by pedal steel guitarist Eric Swanson, supporting the Band Of Horses tour. Tonight he’s playing hooky and has sneaked in a gig at The Islington.
There are nights that are exultant and inspire me to keep going to live music. This was one of those nights. For me, a signifier of a great gig is waking up the next morning and the first thing that comes into your head is a song/tune from the previous evening.
I woke up singing I Shall Be Released. But that’s not an Israel Nash song is possibly your first and correct thought. What is significant was it was sung in a way I’ve never seen it (or any song) done before.
It was the final song of the evening. Israel and Eric asked for volunteers from the audience to accompany them on two spare acoustics they had. A dozen hands lifted and two lucky guys got them. I was too uncertain of my ability to volunteer.
Israel and Eric got off the stage and made a space amongst the crowd. A quick run through the chords and then they were off into the most glorious, ragged ecstatic example of a crowd singalong I’ve taken part in. I can just see their heads, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the power of the performance, in that moment that is the important thing and we were generating enough power to light up the whole of London for a few minutes.
But it wasn’t just that final singalong, the whole gig was touched by magic. Drawing largely on the last two albums, Rain Plans and Silver Season we had over an hour of Israel’s music.
Extra magic was cast upon us for a three song set where two stools were brought to the from of the stage and Israel and Eric sang with no microphones – just their voices and unplugged guitars.
After that they went back plugged in and gave us Rain Plans before the final encore.
There was no real encore because they’d have had to work their way through the crowd and back again, so they just carried on until I Shall Be Released.
Life affirming, spirit regenerating, joyous music played by by an artist totally in tune with his audience.
The support came from Juanita Stein. I didn’t know anything about her but I found out she was in a band called Howling Bells. Whatever, I enjoyed her half hour set of songs from a soon to be released album and I think she’s a name to look out for. She’s playing her own headliner next month in Hackney.