This was a night of rock ’n roll, blues, country, folk and soul, those landmark styles that set the ground rules for the last six decades of music and it showed that artists who trade in those genres, with authenticity, respect and reverence, continue to attract devoted fans.
A Man Called Stu and pedal steel player Jy-Perry Banks had the job of projecting their honky tonk, country and rockabilly songs across the empty dance floor to the early arrivals. A less than stellar guitar sound in the mix was a minor distraction but Stu’s professionalism and spot-on song selection of originals like My Dark Past and covers of artists like Faron Young made for a great opening to the evening.
Sons of the East on the other hand were a strange choice. Theirs is the contemporary take on folk as filtered through Kings Of Leon, Fleetwood Mac (who they covered), Mumford & Sons and the like. They came across as overly emotive and too earnest, though credit should be given for their singing and playing ability. It was just too soulless, making for a bland and ultimately deflating set, like an folk version of the Reubens. They’ll probably be huge.
JD McPherson is one thing, but combine his exceptional guitar playing and vocals (which started off sounding slight but progressed to a powerhouse soulful blues holler and wail through the night) with a band that were individually stars in their own right and you have one hell of a night of hot-blooded rock ’n roll. McPherson didn’t spend much time interacting with the audience and self-aggrandising, his style is to speak through the music with song after song that had the Factory Theatre grinning and shaking their heads in disbelief at lightning flurries of keyboard notes, blistering drumming and a supremely cool-looking and deep-in-the-groove bassist. McPherson’s two albums filled most of the setlist with highlights including North Side Gal, Let The Good Times Roll and Head Over Heels. This was a lesson in the history of rock ’n roll played by a group of musicians with buckets of soul and swagger and the ability to both educate and entertain.