October 20, 2017
Islington Assembly Hall, London
“This is a song for all the people who don’t like country music. Losers, we call them”
Legends of Country scoped the scene by checking how many in the crowd enjoyed country music. Not many claimed that they didn’t, but the positive support wasn’t exactly overwhelming either. An underfilled room – victim of snarled transportation and the competing delights of a Friday night in the capital – didn’t help either. Singer Jof Owen joked “there are a lot of local eateries so thank you for coming early. You might regret it!”
With the exception of one man who whooped and hollered like his life depended on it, there was a faint sense that the crowd liked country a little, but maybe not for right now. Perhaps they’d grown too accustomed to support acts being drawn from Roddy Woomble’s own band. There was certainly no sense that Legends of Country played the dour, contemplative Scottish rock they’d experienced in the past. Owen sold Old Guns with exuberance and appropriate actions. There was no sense of holding back as the band piled in on Jelly and Jam with a Jungle Book style beat and killer licks.
Still, it’s obvious that Anything But Country and That’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Country, which name-checked the greats of the genre, would bring the house down for a classic country crowd. The reticence certainly seemed to be a reflection of the unsuspecting indie-folk crowd rather than the band or the genre. Neither 40 in the Spring nor It’s a Long Way Back From a Dream were particularly “country.” Saturday Dads, too, was a soft ballad not a country stomper, and it was particularly evocative and desperately poignant: “I sit with you on the swings and tell you things you tell me you already know.” Beautifully bittersweet.
Find out more at legendsofcountry.co.uk
“This is the kind of music for Tuesday night on a Friday”
As the final notes died down, the reserve evaporated and the crowd was magnetically attracted to the front row. This newfound confidence spoke of a crowd intimately familiar with Roddy Woomble’s music in all its guises. This certainly wasn’t an audience expecting a retro setlist from Idlewild’s back catalogue while chatting through any newer cuts. Woomble’s solo work is distinctive and quality enough in itself to draw his fans in.
That said, Woomble’s new tracks, such as the noir infused Like Caruso, have an impression of early Idlewild. There’s that same discordance, determination and passion, but with greater focus and maturity. Any Old Kind Of World Will Do had scuzzy, hard guitars and Jupiter had an electric riff. It wasn’t just the new songs. As Still As I Watch Your Grave was powerful and raucous and Leaving Without Gold was backed by heavy, rumbling bass. Making Myths was souped up like an anthem for introverts everywhere.
There was still enough introspection to placate Woomble’s folky fans. I Came In From The Mountain was contemplative. Waverley Steps was as breathtaking as ever. In the slower songs, the rich timbre of Woomble’s voice, cut with a sense of fragility, was striking.
Woomble’s signature pacing and retreating from the spotlight remained, but less due to nerves and more out of respect and admiration for his bandmates. Previous shows have foregrounded Sorren Maclean and Andrew Wasylyk as support acts.
This time, Hannah Fisher stood out. Right from the first song, Look Back Like Leaving, her vocals and fiddle playing were exemplary. She made it seem like Little Discourage always had violin (and it really should be re-recorded that way). Her voice was so pure and beautiful it created a sense of conflict: somehow always wanting to hear Woomble and Fisher’s voices together but also only wanting to hear Fisher singing all the time forever.
There was consternation when Woomble announced his last song, which he acknowledged with a chuckle: “sometimes we play encores.” The fans’ emotional connection with Woomble’s work, that showed in Every Line of a Long Moment when fans embraced as they chanted along, reached a crescendo for a haunting rendition of American English. After a tough
week month year, the mass singalong was cathartic and truly memorable.
After a few Scottish dates with Drever and McCusker in January, Woomble will be heading out on a UK tour in March. Head to roddywoomble.net for the dates.
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