February 22, 2017
“It’s getting intimate!”
Israel Nash is known for powerful, full-band blues rock shows, but his uncompromising, all-in style was somehow even more compelling at close quarters. As the temperature soared in The Islington’s back room, the sold-out crowd was treated to a performance masterclass.
Stripped back – accompanied only by Eric Swanson on pedal steel and electro-acoustic guitar – the quality of Nash’s smoky voice and insightful lyrics was undeniable.
It’s increasingly impossible for American bands to perform without acknowledging the current U.S. political situation in some way. Nash’s stance can be guessed with the searing lyric “Sooner or later we’ll surrender our guns/But not until we’ve shot everyone” in Parlour Song.
It turned out that the cautionary sentiment was not shared by everyone in the London crowd – “I love you but I’ll never surrender my guns” – and even less so in Nash’s native Missouri or his current home of Texas. Nonetheless, Nash calls for calm: “there are a lot of crazy things that are going on…embrace the spirit of music…embrace things of beauty.”
It’s clearly not all serious when the band tours the U.S. in ‘R.V. Keitel.’ Nash joked about the things they can get away as long haired folk in a motorhome, simply because “everyone thinks it’s older people on vacation.”
Mistaken identity clearly goes both ways; 35 year old Nash admitted he’d recently been mistaken for the 65 year old actor Kurt Russell!
An American artist doesn’t get to tour Europe 20 times simply by sharing jokes and stories from the road, of course. The songs stand apart, such as the extended storning jam Barn Doors and Concrete Floors, and a thoughtful version of L.A. Lately.
Nash saved the best for last. Sensing the mood of the room, he figured he and Swanson could go acoustic.
The pair hit sweet notes in Evening, a poignant song of longing, love and loss. They moved close to the crowd for Louisiana and Baltimore, then climbed right in (with fans on guitar) for a singalong cover of I Shall Be Released.
“Are you cool if I do a Johnny Cash cover?”
Juanita Stein’s set was striking for her self-assured style. She’s good – very good – and she knows it, so she was supremely comfortably sounding variously tender, sensual or simply sincere. She was always crystal clear and never a walk over.
Take the choice of cover, for example. It’s one thing to take on the Man in Black, quite another to pass over the singalongs for A Thing Called Love. She more than did it justice, delivering a powerful version of a song about the power of love.
Watch out for her somewhere farther down the line, taking no prisoners.
Juanita Stein will be headlining at Paper Dress Vintage on March 6. Click out the details here.
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