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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
 

JIM WHITE - Bush Hall, London Thursday November 4th - by giga-deluxe guest writer Nick Morgan

Jim White walks onto the small stage beneath the Versailles-styled plasterwork of London’s Bush Hall, dressed in baggy jeans, an uncomfortable brown jumper and a Du-Pont branded baseball cap (could he have worked for Seagrams in the good old days ?) and announces that he lives in a peripheral world. Then, only a few bars into creating his first song of the evening his Byzantine complex of cables and effects pedals falls over – failed, ironically, by a Duracell Battery. Lesson number one of the evening. Never trust the everlasting pink drumming bunny.
Jim’s world is a sepia coloured road movie, driving past the blank billboards of an endless highway that leads to the darker corners of the American psyche; girls, lay-preachers, perverts, lonely motel rooms, railroad-tracks, Jesus, child-abusers, girls, lonely motel rooms, angels, murderers, God, gas-stations, girls (from Brownsville Texas), motor-homes, lonely motel rooms, angels, girls, God, Jesus … Get the picture ?

 
  Make no mistake, Jim is a lovely guy. Honestly. He loves his daughter (I’m sure that’s her in the passport photo taped to his Telecaster – yes, another Telecaster artiste!); one of his prettiest songs, which he sings tonight, is ‘Bluebird’ (from the must-have album of the year – Drill me a hole in that substrate …), about the pain of missing her when he’s in …, well you guessed it, a lonely motel room. And he thanks us sincerely for being there – because gigs help pay for her education – and we all know he means it. So how can he take us to those dark places?
A new song, performed with astonishing accomplishment (I’ll get on to that later) is ‘Take me away’ – a mentally ill (or is he?) man’s cry as he runs towards the overpowering lights of an oncoming train (on a railroad, needless to say) – or is he running to that stranger on the other side of the track, who must be …. (don’t be lazy- you should be able to guess by now). Either way- it’s a messy ending.
But don’t be fooled by all this southern white-boy zeitgeist baloney and the hardly deserved banal alt.country tag that Jim often gets. He skilfully paints a musical vista just as dense and enticing as his lyrical landscape. A few months earlier in London he played with a four piece backing band an almost studio-perfect set, largely of Drill me a hole … Tonight he’s solo, and he rocks, rolls, raps and grooves through thirteen songs, laying down voice, keyboard and guitar loops (nothing pre-recorded) over which he picks the Telecaster and his lovely banjo-style electric.  

‘Take me away’ – it deserves to be mentioned twice – is a virtuoso performance, as is ‘A perfect day for chasing Tornadoes’ (a song, he tells us in a surfing reminiscence, about walking towards your fear, not away from it), ‘Alabama Chrome’ and ‘If Jesus drove a motor home’. And we’re with him in that (lonely motel?) room where (we were told) he spent twenty years playing songs that no-one wanted to hear – except us.
So Jim ends the gig, as he did last time, by simply raising the lights and sitting on the edge of the stage to talk to his (hugely diverse) audience. He doesn’t do encores. In June he played the encore halfway through the set – ‘just to get rid of it’. And Kate shakes his hand and hands him a note, with Serge’s website address on it – “Have a look Jim, there’ll be a review there”. “I’ll look just as soon as I can” he drawls.
So as you read this, Jim just might be somewhere out there on the lonely super-highway of life, reading this review as he eats a few waffles at the wheel of his recreational vehicle, his best little girl by his side … - Nick Morgan (photos by Kate)



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