Thursday, 3 April 2014

Simone Felice - Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham Wednesday 2nd April 2014

The phrase ‘too rock for country; too country for rock’ is often used to describe Americana music. If you’re seeking a band to epitomise this statement then look no further than Simone Felice when he hits the road as a trio. His latest trip to the UK kicked off on the second day of April and a well-populated Hare and Hounds pub in Birmingham lapped up this exhilarating performance by Simone and his sidekicks Matty Green and Gabriel Dresdale.

Many visits to our shores over the years has seen Simone cultivate a decent following this side of the Atlantic and the vocal adulation received from those present on this opening night left him truly humble. A man of few but well-chosen words, Simone let his song writing, guitar playing and compelling drumming do a bulk of the communicating as he utilised an excellent sound system to play a cross section of songs from the three projects of his career.

The latest solo album from Simone is starting to get rave reviews from the knowledgeable media and the four songs featured this evening acted as an excellent preview to the release. ‘Molly-O!’ was launched early in the set to lift the tempo and the chorus-friendly ‘Running Through My Head’ neatly slotted into the role of closing the pre-encore set. Vocal support for this compulsive track came from half the audience and the invited stage presence of supporting act Dan Whitehouse and his singing partner Harriett. Simone referenced the new album when introducing ‘The Best That Money Can Buy’ but surely the greatest plug for the album came from a stunning rendition of ‘If You Go To LA’, the stand out track from STRANGERS.

Fans of the Felice Brothers were not forgotten in the set list as Simone re-ignited his sibling recording days with versions of ‘Don’t Wake The Scarecrow’ and ‘Radio Song’. However two of the more popular songs on the evening were lifted from his debut solo release as ‘You And I Belong’ and ‘New York Times’ needed little encouragement for audience participation.

As previously mentioned, the sound quality was a redeeming feature of this gig with the slide Dobro and mandola of Matty Green giving the tunes a traditional edge and Gabriel Dresdale’s cello adding a touch of elegance. The song delivery from Simone was lifted straight out of the Americana blueprint manual and it was no surprise to hear the work of Springsteen and Dylan celebrated in the encore. The former’s ‘Atlantic City’ raised the rock tempo significantly before we were serenaded to the exits with ‘I Shall Be Released’.

It is also worth mentioning that Simone’s duet work in Duke and the King wasn’t forgotten with ‘One More American Song’ nestling securely amongst the wealth of emotive tracks getting the live treatment this evening. From start to finish this gig captured the spirit of Americana and delivered a taste of rural upstate New York to a suburban second city pub.

This venture was another instalment in the project of Nottingham based promoters Cosmic American and their welcome expansion into the live Birmingham music scene. As long as they bring artists of the quality of Simone Felice to the area then I’m sure the music community will respond in growing numbers. Many present at this gig will agree with this sentiment. 


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