Monday, 9 May 2011

815 DRIVE BY TRUCKERS, Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards, London Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Thursday 5 May 2011

Here’s another band that I found out about thanks to my “Uncut” subscription, and another one, like the Decemberists, that I was warned about! This warning came after picking up on a couple of tracks by this veteran Southern US Rock band, another name that had skirted around the periphery of my “wants” lists for a couple of years, on a couple of “Uncut” compilation CDs. One, “This Fucking Job”, was noisy, sleazy and chuntering bar-room blues, like a drawling, ‘baccy spitting Hold Steady, and the other, “Used To Be A Cop”, a deliciously macabre Violent Femmes-like dark introspective confessional. Recent 2 CDs and a ticket for tonight’s show sorted, I announced my findings to the world on facebook, whence Russ Hunt (yes even he) issued a health warning about their variable song quality. I should have heeded his words…

Anyway, I drove up to town at 6, finally giving both CDs a proper listen on the way and thinking, “hmmm, maybe Russ has a point…” Nevertheless, I was committed, and parked up at 8 in my usual spot, hitting the venue to catch most of the support slot from Dan Michaelson And The Coastguards. A young beardy chap with a very deep and resonant voice, recalling Leonard Cohen, fronted a similarly hirsute band playing some late night moody country which was plodding and insubstantial. I spent the time looking around the slowly filling venue at the audience, which was turning out to be comprised of virtually all beardy old blokes. Again, I felt very young!

The Truckers arrived at the appointed hour of 9, hefty and bearded vocalist Patterson Hood soaking in the ovation awhile, before opening their set with the octave-straddling “I Do Believe”, the fine opener to current moody, murder ballad-heavy CD “Go Go Boots”. Thence followed a couple of numbers of sprawling, menacing, swampy, slightly countrified but charged blues rock, hard rocking and powerful, alternating between Hood’s gulping drawl, and his skinny, raw-boned and rawer-voiced pard’ner Mike Cooley on vocals. At this point they were threatening to live up to their “Uncut” billing as a tremendous live act, said magazine promising that they’d unmoor the Empire off its' foundations! Sure, the song quality was patchy, but some nice Doors-like organ embellishments and the sheer power of their performance was at this point raising them above the variable nature of their material.

“Used To Be A Cop” came early, seething with sleaze and personal despair, and Shonna Tucker took vocal chores to follow with a stark, desolate “Where’s Eddie”, her breathy Southern lilt almost Dolly Parton-like. However, just under an hour in, the set seriously drifted into pedal-steel trad country balladry and beer-soaked sludge, and my attention likewise seriously wandered. Fifteen minutes later they’d lost me totally, and I was at the back thinking about my forthcoming busy weekend, so, tiring and bored, left early.

Overall, a great start, but then a really pronounced drop-off. One great song doesn’t cut it for me any more, so sorry. Drive-By Truckers? Just not my thang, pard’ner.

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