13 May 2014 (gig)
18 May 2014
A hefty support for Robert Francis tonight with two solo guitarists and a British folk band. Probably too much and, with the short well received set the Francis played, maybe unnecessary.
Nevertheless, up first was Maxim Ludwig who is a member of The Nigh Tide, Francis’s backing band. His nerves were palpable but he got through them for a set of solo guitar work, maybe not the strongest singer and the songs don’t hold together up that well with just him and a guitar. Up next were the The Melodic a folk band that served up a half-hour of fun, frolicking and rollicking folk music that went down pretty well. John J Presley’s swamp blues set came and went.
Over here with his fourth album, and a first headline in the UK, Robert Francis opened with Pain from the new album. A low key strummer with the band on backing vocals it’s effective but doesn’t quite set us for the evening. Darkness, oddly enough, is a lot jollier and the band now behind their instruments look far more comfortable. Francis comes from the great American singer/songwriter/rocker mould that only the US really produces. Leaning more towards Mellencamp than The Boss when it comes to storytelling, he does have a sheen and a sense of the epic that they don’t have. That comes to the fore with a magnificent and epic One by One.
As expected the new album gets a fair airing and it has to be said the live environment gives the songs an added edge. Ukiah was that little bit grittier, while Take You to the Water just took on another dimension, and was one of the highlights.
He’s a bit of a guitar player too knocking out a couple of sweet solos during Love is the Chemical and Mescaline, on full rockstar mode for the latter. All this was lapped by a noisy but largely sedentary audience. The set closed with crowd favourite Junebug and, finally, the audience were up on their feet dancing. That was the main problem tonight: this is a rock band and the Bush Hall is not really a rock venue. At the very least the tables and chairs should have been taken out. It would be have interesting to seen them in a place like the Borderline but after this they should be looking beyond those venues anyway.