There was a happy healthy buzz. It was the second night of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and a lot was on offer; choices had to be made. There were punk heroes The Stranglers in the marquee for a start, or acoustic folk triumvirate Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz & Aoife O’Donovan in gorgeous St George’s Church. I settled for Josh Rouse in the Black Box.
Recording since 1998, the Nebraskan singer songwriter is now based in Spain where his new album The Embers of Time was written and recorded. The audience at the Black Box however didn’t seem to need any of this information. They knew what they were there for. They were soaking it up and waiting for their favourites. Case in point is “Julie (Come Out of the Rain)” from the album The Happiness Waltz. It elicited nodding heads and covert sing-a-long that only those seated at the table were meant to hear. Then later there was “Come Back” from the album 1972, which had the room clapping and overtly sing-a-longing; with even a touch of slow-hand table drumming over to my right if I’m not mistaken.
Rouse’s only friend on stage was Xema Fuertes, who proved to be an impressive multi-talented accompaniment as the night progressed. He added sand to the play pit as he drum-brushed the music along. Then the drums were swopped for guitar, and his vocals smoothed as he shape shifted from song to song.
Rouse tuned his guitar, with harmonica at the ready, before he started the light happy opening bars of “You Walked Through The Door” from The Embers of Time. Songs from this new album were beautifully dotted all along the road throughout the gig. These included the gorgeous “Some Days I’m Golden All Night”, which showed off his sweet syrupy voice. But unsurprisingly it was older, better known numbers that drew the bigger response as the night built on itself.
The lovely soulful guitar and hazy summer vibe in “It’s Good To Have You” wrapped the room around the people on stage. There wasn’t a sinner at the bar as listeners started ever so slightly swaying in their seats. This spell was broken though. There were appreciative claps and a few “oohs” as Rouse started playing “Quiet Town”. There was also a mini rush for the bar, as punters had obviously abstained for long enough – it being a festival and all. The song continued though, as we were treated to some notable whistling from Rouse, with Fuertes on guitar while keeping the beat on the hi-hat.
He ended on “Love Vibration”, another from that 1972 album. As the music started emanating from the stage a happy audience started clapping in the intro, and ladies stood up for a dance. “You people all know what I’m talking about” was spontaneously bounced back at him from the floor as he sang the line. While the pair kept up the vocals, and the room kept up the clapping, he unplugged his guitar and wandered amongst us toward the green room. When he was nearly gone Fuertes jumped off stage and followed him, out of sight.
Video credit: bedroomclassics
Originally posted on Creative Voices NI