Given the paralysing despair of his debut solo recording Last of the Country Gentlemen, Josh T Pearson’s live persona is a pretty chirpy guy in contrast to his recorded portrait of a lonesome folk troubadour. Before the opening chords of ‘Sweetheart, I Ain’t Your Christ’ a dialogue ensues for near on ten minutes as he takes votes for performing with or without a jacket and jokingly exclaims “y’all need to get a life” to those who’ve previously attended performances of this Texan; formerly of the cult-status band Lift to Experience. The self deprecating humour and jovial familiarity are all just so we can “deal with the pain later” he declares, bookending each of his woeful songs with a homemade joke. And indeed it’s this ability to flit from playful court jester to elegiac emotion that marks him as an entertainer unlike many: the venue echoing with laughter at his cracks one moment, and falling to eerie silence in the next.
Confessing to having not listened to the recording since it was mixed, Pearson’s live embodiment of the intricate tapestry of guitar finger work and stark vocals – hard hitting whether a mere whisper, or gruff exclamation: “let me quietly drink myself to sleep” – culminated in a somewhat spiritual experience, and not merely for the quaint setting of Islington’s Union Chapel. His performance of ‘Woman When I’ve Raised Hell’ swelled with a trio of strings (they couldn’t afford a quartet it turns out), which expanded upon the album’s waning violin; provided this evening by Mike Siddell of the Leisure Society.
Certainly there is a correlation between this banter and tomfoolery and his straying song narratives, which at some seven minutes long may be mistaken for being without point, yet at the same time it is almost a surprise he can compose and channel his words at these moments. ‘Thou Art Loosed’ digressed into Boney M’s ‘Rivers of Babylon’ for the close of the main set; his voice thickly crooning over a chaotic flurry of trademark strumming. For one of the albums of the year, it’s a small honour to witness its performance in such a setting. And for some lighthearted asides to help us see it through.
Review by Melanie McGovern
Covering Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence”:
From: Last of the Country Gentlemen
Sweetheart I Ain’t Your Christ
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Honeymoon Is Great, I Wish You Were Her
[audio:http://www.box.net/shared/static/dbfd5lbjex.mp3|titles=Honeymoon Is Great, I Wish You Were Her|artists=Josh T Pearson]