The lure of the back room at the Hare and Hounds once again proved strong for Simone Felice who could not resist a return to this Birmingham location to open his latest UK tour. The ultra connective atmosphere inspired a chipper persona in an artist bound by genius song writing qualities within an idiosyncratic exterior. Interweaving high tensile songs between hypnotic pauses creates an intense aura when this native from the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York hits the stage. Across two sets this evening, Felice pondered, toyed and conveyed a contented respect while powering through a bunch of songs reflecting a career enriched by many a smart manoeuvre.
The production side of his work may be increasing in relevance (the latest project being the new Jade Bird album), but releasing his own material is never far from the table. A new single titled ‘Puppet’ signalled the future, while the recent past dipped into last year’s THE PROJECTOR album with the title track inducing reflective commentary of its dark side credentials. This record also dealt the atmospheric poem ‘They Hang Upon My Every Word’, a piece brought to extra life via a Felice recital from a stage pouncing stance.
It was hard to look past a prominent performance of ‘Don’t Wake the Scarecrow’ as the show’s magic moment, though there were many worthy candidates to challenge this mantle. Singalong invites hit a new high for a Simone Felice solo show. Not just content with the catchy repetition of ‘The Morning I Get To Hell’ and the rather more wordy, yet no less impactful ‘Radio Song’, the evening had to be brought to a stirring end with the Felice ode to his roots masterpiece, ‘Bye Bye Palenville’.
Prior to this riveting finale, the audience had a choice for the penultimate number of another singalong (yes he was on a roll) or one to spit fire (our man has a way with words). A mixture of responses led to the latter, so ‘War Movie’ won the moment. Other highlights from a packed evening running closer to two hours than one included ‘If You Ever Get Famous’, ‘Hustler’ and a rare live appearance of ‘Ballad of Sharon Tate’ in the first half. A mention for second half opener ‘New York Times’ is also richly deserved, although many Felice classics from the STRANGERS album were given a breather for this gig.
Connections with East Midlands promoters Cosmic American keeps the area on the horizon when Simone Felice hits our shores, and it is to the advantage of the western side of the region that the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham appears to be the preferred choice. Many dedicated fans packing the room had few complaints. A mutual feeling of humble admiration and respect filled the air as evidence of a songwriting great flourished from the stage. The solo shows continue to be the de facto touring mode for Simone Felice these days and they certainly reach parts to ensure that each gig proves a truly mesmerising and memorable experience.