1 November sees a first trip to The Sage in Gateshead. The attraction is the chance to see Alison Krauss and Union Station. What the GLW and I got was top-class musicianship because they put on a quietly accomplished performance based primarily on the unerringly elegant voice of Krauss, who is also an exceptional fiddle player. Beautiful versions of Ghost In This House and Richard Thompson’s Dimming Of The Day were particular highlights. Band members also get their chance to feature and Dan Tyminski sang half a dozen songs including a moving version of Woody Guthrie’s Pastures Of Plenty. Jerry Douglas, Ron Block and Barry Bales all played a full part in a two-hour show with no slack.
There was a memorable encore as they gathered around a single microphone for an acoustic five-song finale. You could hear a pin drop as Krauss sang Ronan Keating’s When You Say Nothing At All and Whiskey Lullaby, followed by a gospel trilogy of Down To The River To Pray, Your Long Journey and There Is A Reason. Mesmerising.
11 November – And it’s to Manchester to see Fountains Of Wayne at the Club Academy. I love PowerPop when it’s done well and currently no one does it better than FOW. The problem tonight though is the venue. It’s small and the sound for the first three or four songs is appalling. Thankfully they get it sorted and the entertainment really begins. They play songs from across their career as well as a generous selection from their new CD, Sky Full Of Holes. At the risk of sounding churlish I wished they’d played Red Dragon Tattoo, a favourite of mine. They did play a long version of Radiation Vibe that included excerpts for Tears For Fears Mad World, Wings Jet as well as three or four other covers. I also enjoyed the way they undermined expectations by playing a slowed down version of Stacey’s Mom. If you’re not familiar with FOW check them out as soon as possible!
14 November – The Low Anthem are not a band I’m particularly familiar with but I’d liked what I’d heard so I thought I’d check them out at The Irish Centre.
They’re excellent live and performed a fantastic version of To Ohio from Oh My God Charlie Darwin, which you should own if you don’t already. My only complaint was that they didn’t go on until 9.45 and finished at 11.45, which I think is a bit late for a school night. Still, I’d go see them again without a doubt.
21 November – Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings at the Manchester Apollo. What’s to say about Gill and Dave that’s not already been said and said better? I’ll restrict this to saying that they were outstanding tonight. They played lots of material from their new CD, The Harrow & the Harvest,as well as at least one song from each of their earlier albums. David’s spot tonight was To Be Young from Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker CD, which he co-wrote. They also perform covers of Snowin’ On Raton, written by Townes Van Zandt, and Jackson, popularised by Johnny Cash and June Carter.
They played for about 2 hours and could have played for another two.
Set 1: Scarlet Town, Make Me Down A Pallet On Your Floor, Rock Of Ages, The Way It Will Be, The Way It Goes, I Want To Sing That Rock And Roll, Dark Turn Of Mind, Annabelle, Tennessee, Red Clay Halo.
Set 2: Hard Times, Down Along The Dixie Line, Acony Bell, Revelator, Six White Horses, To Be Young, Snowin’ On Raton, Caleb Meyer.
Encores: Look At Miss Ohio, I’ll Fly Away, Jackson.