Pretty much a sell out at the revamped Borderline for Ian Felice’s first solo foray to these shores. It’s been a busy period what with a new baby, propping up the excellent Conor Oberst’s album and tour and now an excellent new album full of image soaked Americana and a tour to support it. The crowd ( including Loose alumni Danny Champ and label boss Tom – here as a fan as much as management) can’t wait, but they have to for tonight it’s no tacked on support but a full blown talent in his own right. Gil Landry takes to the stage late but welcome. He unfurls his unhurried road songs in the manner of a well weathered storyteller imparting brief vignettes of explanation before each perfectly delivered cinemascope evocation. Simple on electric semi acoustic with occasional harmonica these songs are truthful and full of pathos, an easy baritone and self deprecating style. Simple and lovely. And then..
Ian Felice lopes onto the stage, his semi stoned persona still not fully engaged as he takes in the full house and and the love in the room. Opening the set with the beautiful Water Street it becomes immediately clear that this was going to be an intimate and extraordinary event. Just battered guitar, extraordinary voice and poetry, all filtered through this stick thin dissolute figure. Some songs segued into others, old and new together but the overriding melancholia was leavened with the black humour of couplets delivered deadpan and true. Most of the new album was aired and really came to life in the smoky club below Charing Cross Road and old numbers slipped seamlessly into a weary world view. The bulk of the older tracks were culled from Celebration Florida and stripped of that album’s production they changed into visceral narratives on America’s current moral malaise. But the highlights were the new ones – a hymnal Signs of Spring on guitar not keyboards – a love song for the damned. Will I Ever Reach Laredo instantly memorable and bucolic. And a new one, unrecorded – Ghost Town , New York – stunning and an important work this reviewer felt. Ballad of Lou the Welterweight was a standout audience singalong and Sell The House, the standout track from Life in the Dark – a crushing commentary.
This was a wonderful night – what a gig should be. Artist and audience in thrall to the word and tune. Ian Felice’s almost trance like delivery as the evening wore on reminded one of early Van Morrison and his forays into the spiritual realms of the music of the soul. There was real poetry here and also vim and vigour. Catch him if you can!