Down at The Troubadour, the stage is always set for a night to remember. With legends such as Jimi Hendrix having passed through its doors the undying reputation this venue offers must blow an air of nerves upon any performing artist. Tonight it’s Tim Gerard who’ll take to the stands on the night of his latest EP release party. ‘Country Gold’, the five-track offering recorded on the outskirts of Nashville last year follows on from his album ‘Right From The Start’ and looks to set his status firmly within the scene on both sides of the pond. With an Americana, rock, blues edge and a brand new complimenting band by his side I was more than eager to see what the night would bring.
The night opens with Savannah Gardner. A wild western treat, this Californian musician is all cowboy hats and warmth as she glides through her set with a homely grace. Having recently played the C2C festival Gardner brings her stories of heartbreak and memories with a kick of a boot and the twang of a guitar. ‘Home Again’, ‘City of Cowboys’ and ‘Deep Blue Sea’ are brilliantly composed and even more of a good time. The newly released single ‘High Desert Memory’ is the epitome of a whisky drawling, honky tonk roller. There’s an air about Gardner both as a musician and a person that just invites you in – no fuss or frills – to sit back and enjoy the delights she brings to the stage. Country and Americana fans alike, you have your new favourite artist.
As the venue begins to fill main support Joe Corbin swings himself, his guitar and a kick drum into the limelight. The Camden scene native is a regular in those smokey blues smoked London bars we love so much. A cracking rustic voice that just oozes with sentimental nostalgia, the musician opens with the well-streamed ‘Testify’. As he guides us through his skillfully guitar-infused solo set we’re reminded why sometimes less is more. ‘Still, Get High’ taken from his latest EP release keeps the audience swaying as the ambient waves created by his vocal melodies are accompanied by a pounding drum beat. ‘Ordinary’, ‘As The Crow Flies’ and ‘Butchers Blues’ are similar notable highlights but the real triumph here is Corbin’s ability to weave in and out of intensely strung solo instrumentals and his roster of beautifully captured lyricism atop the melodies. The perfect pre-main act warm-up.
9 pm on the dot the lights begin to dim and the venue is clouded with excited anticipation for what is to come. The Troubadour is absolutely heaving for a Wednesday night, with drinks flowing and chatter about what to expect from Gerard afoot. Joining him onstage tonight is Otto Von Jager on bass, Fred Abbott on the keys/Hammond, Adam Breeze on drums, Phoebe White and Natalie Owen On backing vocals.
They open with ‘Amber Light’, a catchy track with anthemic values to the core. High energy and an undeniable ‘this is it’ presence from Tim Gerard lends to an ear-opening intro. We then dip into the title track from Gerard’s full-length album last year, ’Right From The Start’, opening the floor within the music with a hand-to-heart sincerity. The first song from the now-released EP is ‘High Horse’. A synth captured sneering revolt against the cruel who walk among us, Gerard ensnares his audience with each heartfelt guitar chug. Breeze offers his heavier side to the beat, keeping the snare beat rhythm with an unflappable groove.
‘Picasso’ is a feel-good rocking tune with Gerard jumping off the mic to jam with his musicians; the musicality within his own writing offers us a masterclass in the craft. Next up from the EP is ‘Waterloo’, ‘International Show’ and ‘Trigger’. Pad keys from Abbot, a lusciously jam driving solo from Gerard and the kind of backing harmonising from White and Owen that makes your ears melt. The night has already promised and delivered us a layered experience with both depth and leisure.
The blues are then afoot with shuffle beat hip shakers ‘Rattlesnake’ and ‘Payday’ before newly written track ‘Troubled Son’ draws us deeper into this glorious pocket of mid-week musical magnificence. Having listened to his music before, watching the live show really threw my perception of Gerard as a guitarist, as well as a songwriter, into a broader spectrum of talent. He guides his band with an unfailing confidence, wielding his instrument with both passion and precision. In a symbolic moment he chucks his guitar behind his back Hendrix style, soloing without sight before slinging it back over his head and picking at the strings with his teeth. Never dropping a note, only gaining roars of appreciative shock from his crowd.
What we think is the end of song ‘Gaslight’ suddenly turns into the iconic ‘Hocus Pocus’ by Focus. Eyes light up in ecognition as we all keep dancing into ‘London Oh London’. What better time to play a song dedicated to the wonderfully debauch town an audience is from than right now. Last but more certainly not least we get the EP title track, ‘Country Gold’. From those first seconds of that intrusively rousing intro it’s clear this ain’t no country song or no country man. As Gerard huskily sings himself, ‘Blues mind six string/Lost man travelling/ Ain’t no country hat on me’. It’s the epitomising moment of the whole night and an ending to remember.
As the last few notes of the crash jam ending ring out it’s nothing but praise for the performance phenomenon. As we wait to hear what Tim Gerard will give to us next it’s no far cry to say we’ll be seeing this artist on the bigger scene soon. Great guitarist, talented songwriter and damn good showman. Onto the next show.
Review: Monty Sewell
Photography: Rupert Hitchcox