Thursday, 27 July 2017

Joey Landreth - White House Unique Social Club, Ashington. Monday 24th July 2017

Can the grass be greener? A twist on this time tested analogy that can also apply to whether the gigs you regularly frequent are better attended elsewhere in the country. The answer was clearly yes on a Monday night in Ashington where many folks can quite legitimately state that ‘they were there the night Joey Landreth came to town’. The White House Unique Social Club is located in this old Northumberland colliery town twenty miles north of Newcastle. It is not your usual domain of an award winning Canadian folk rock artist, who together with his brother had brought the delectable sibling harmonies to a wider world via the band The Bros. Landreth. Yet on this latest trip to the UK, during a period of Joey branching out on his own, circumstance and fate led to the sold out sticker being plastered right across the gig poster.

For a bit more context, the event was organised by Ashington Town Council as part of its commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the first mineshaft being sunk in the area. The individual behind the project also happens to be a massive music fan and a series of connections led him to discover that Joey Landreth was struggling to get a gig in the North East. Well one and one generally makes two, but in this instance add a couple of noughts in light of the popularity of the eventual show. This was also no social event, as the packed room offered the utmost courtesy to both Joey and the opening act Paul Liddle. Indications were that a few folks had travelled (though not as far as two refugees from the nearby SummerTyne Festival and over two hundred miles from home), but this evening was very much owned by the people of Ashington and they put on a grand display.

Having enjoyed a Bros. Landreth show around twelve months ago to the extent that it made the Top 20 Favourite Gigs of the Year, there was always the danger that Joey with just his guitar minus brother and band would be a tough act to follow. If you were comparing like with like that would have been the case, but putting the performance in its own context was the best way to establish the merit.

Joey began the show armed with the acoustic guitar before switching to the electric version around midway into a set that probably spanned an hour and a quarter. While there were many references to The Bros. Landreth including versions of fine songs like ‘Firecracker’ and ‘Let it Lie’, little was shared about Joey’s move to pursue a solo challenge. He did refer to a previous UK tour earlier in the year, so these shores must be high on the list of markets he wants to focus on. To support his new venture, Joey has released a seven track mini album titled WHISKEY. The lead and title track off this record was held back until the pre-encore song, but when finally heard live ‘Whiskey’ was the standout moment of the original material.

Maybe this moment was just eclipsed as the eventual standout by a beautifully delivered version of the Leonard Cohen classic ‘Bird on a Wire’ as a tribute to his late grandfather. Sometimes it can be a touch disrespectful favouring a songwriter’s cover choice to their original material, but this had so much punchy meaning and sincerity, I’m sure the praise is understood.

Away from the classy vocals, fine guitar playing and serious song selection, Joey displayed a relaxed demeanour. This included a couple of ‘what’s said at the gig stays at the gig’ stories along with simple irreverent chat that continued to hold the undivided attention of an appreciative audience.

It may just have been a one off but Ashington gave Joey Landreth a night he’ll never forget. Now the next time a Monday evening gig struggles to sell, you can always say Northumberland did it – once.

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