Nick Morgan and crew
Review by Nick Morgan
ROUSE Shepherds Bush Empire, London, May
have to confess that I was dismayed to learn that
Rouse had released a football record.
I know that we’re going to be inundated
with soccer nonsense over the next month whilst
a certain tournament mondial goes on in Germany,
but Josh Rouse?
Note: open the following links at your own risks!
;-)] I’m not surprised by Sham 69’s
up England’ (‘though I’m dismayed
that I can remember the original, with Jimmy Pursey’s
thought provoking lyrics “Hurry up Harry we’re
going down the pub”), or that Tony Christie
has put together ‘Is
this the way to the World Cup?’. I did
think Whiskyfun favourite Wreckless Eric might have
done better than release a World Cup version of
wide world 4 England’ (ouch Eric). And
I suppose we all could have predicted offerings
like Stan Boardman’s ‘Aye
aye ippy, the Germans bombed our chippy’,
or the ToneDef Allstars’ (featuring among
others ‘They think it’s all over’
Geoff Hurst) ‘Who do you think you are kidding
Jurgen Klinsmann’. Yep – all part of
a nation’s sporting shame. But Josh Rouse,
whose last album Nashville was almost close to a
masterpiece? And then I’d realised I’d
misread the title, not Subbuteo, but Subtitulo.
Phew! [Editor’s Note: culturally disorientated
readers, confused by this longwinded and apparently
meaningless joke, might wish to look here
If you don’t know Nashville, written both
as a homage and farewell to the city where Rouse
had spent ten years honing his song writing skills,
was one of the albums of 2005. Yes I know it’s
poppy, but beneath that there’s huge depth,
deeply personal lyrics, some great Brit-pop style
guitar driven tunes, some wonderful lyrics (check
out the Smiths tribute ‘Winter in the Hamptons’)
and just a few touches of Nashville steel guitar.
With its release, and a collapsed marriage behind
him, Rouse set off for Spain, and it’s there
where the new album was conceived and partially
recorded. I guess you could say it’s more
of the same, intimate, confessional, reflective
– all that good old singer songwriter stuff.
But it’s carried off with great aplomb –
and it’s clear that even if he hasn’t
written their World Cup song Rouse is very much
at home in soccer mad Spain.
equally at home on the stage of the Shepherd’s
Bush Empire. In fact from the moment he strides
onto the stage (well, actually it takes off during
his whistling solo half way through opener ‘Quiet
town’) he owns the place. It really turns
out to be a remarkable gig – full of confidence
this guy fills the theatre; strong voice, great
guitar playing, powerful harmonica, teasing rock
and roll moves, the occasional amusing anecdote,
a really personal touch (“turn up the lights,
I want to see you all so I can tell my Mom you were
here”) – he’s got the lot. He
also has a fantastic band – drummer Marc Pisapia
(who does a sturdy job as backing vocalist) and
a very groove-driving bass player James Haggerty
– together these two were the nucleus of the
band on Nashville. The noise they make for a three
piece is remarkable (and for the Bush very well
balanced) – they even have a Crazy Horse moment
during instrumental ‘La Costa Blanca’.
And just to make up the set there is also an occasional
string quartet lending support.
Bush is packed. Audience mixed. The crowd are surprisingly
raucous (“We love you Josh” growls some
crafty cockney between each song, much to the singer’s
amusement), passionate and enthusiastic. I think
they even take Rouse and his band by surprise with
their warmth and appreciation – but the band
enjoy every minute of it. In return they give a
set largely drawn form Subtitulo and Nashville.
‘Quiet Town’, ‘Giving it up’
and ‘It looks like love’ kicking off
from the new album. Highlights of what follows are
‘Winter in the Hamptons’, ‘His
Majesty rides’, ‘Wonderful’, ‘Summertime’,
and to finally finish ‘It’s the nighttime’.
All compact songs perfectly executed. And at the
end, after a short encore, he left the stage with
a wave and the audience shrieking for more, amongst
them the sceptical Photographer, whose doubts had
faded during ‘Giving it up’ and who
subsequently pronounced the evening “The eat
my words gig of the year’. Sophisticated pop
paradise with a twist of attitude, and all this
for £15 – far less than the price of
a World Cup ticket and more than twice the fun.
Why watch football when you can buy Josh Rouse’s
records, or even go and see him if you get the chance?
- Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
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