Coming to the end of a long series of tours promoting his latest album ‘Lifted’, Israel Nash and his road warriors are by now fully blooded and it showed tonight as they treated this audience to a magnificent 90 minutes of epic sounds. Freely trading on his Neil Young comparisons, Nash adds a splendid dollop of cosmic American music consciousness to his songs allowing them to spiral well beyond any accusations of being a mere copycat. There were moments tonight when the mesh of pedal steel, blissful guitar and glowering rythyms just about blew your head away.
They kicked things off with a rousing delivery of ‘Lucky Ones’ which had tons more oomph than the studio version with Nash howling as if he was channelling John Fogerty. They then slid into a more signature sound on the sublime ‘Spiritfalls’, ticking all the boxes one expects from an Israel Nash number; gliding pedal steel, crunchy guitar and ethereal voices all gelling into one. Recalling his city years in New York, Nash offered us his tribute to James Brown, ‘Rexinamarum’, which came across like a streetwise cousin to Neil Young’s funkier numbers on ‘Harvest’. However, he now lives in the country and many of the songs tonight reflected the peace and tranquillity he has found there, starting off with ‘Sweet Springs’ which segued into a beautiful delivery of ‘Who In Time’.
Harking back to earlier times there was a grand version of ‘Baltimore’ from his Gripka days and, with the audience in his pocket by now, a grand triumvirate of ‘LA Lately’, ‘Rolling On’, and then the highly anticipated ‘Rain Plains’, closed the show, the latter just wondrous to behold and hear. The packed audience demanded an encore and were rewarded with a raucous version of CSN&Y’s ‘Ohio’ which was like nectar to the bees as most on the floor just about went apeshit, singing along to this perennial protest song which gains traction tweet by tweet from the blunderbuss in the White House these days. A rousing end to a glorious, uplifting and blissed out show.
Early birds to the show were treated to an excellent performance from LA songstress, Leslie Stevens, riding high on some rave reviews for her just released album, ‘Sinner’. Accompanied by John Graboff (who has played with the great and the good) on guitar and pedal steel, Stevens, whose voice was described by The Guardian last week as, “effortlessly melodic,” was a delight throughout her short set, her more aching songs described by her as “bummerjams.” Having said that, she mined a fine country soul groove on the opening ‘12 Feet High’ which had a touch of Bobbie Gentry to it before flowing into the title song from ‘Sinner’, a song she confessed to being somewhat uneasy at singing it in a church, be it now converted. She blasphemed again on her excellent ditty, ‘Everybody Drinks And Drives In Heaven’ while ‘Can I Sleep In Your Room’, a song she says was an attempt to write in a Willie Nelson style, was a true country weepie given some added shade courtesy of an old pal of hers, Jeri Foreman, an Australian fiddler who currently resides in Glasgow. Stevens sang this beautifully, tremulous and aching while the fiddle and pedal steel parlayed wonderfully. Harking back to her days in Leslie & The Badgers, Stevens obtained a kazoo and led the audience through a grand old folk singalong on ‘It’s OK To Trip But Don’t Fall’, a quirky song which recalled the nonchalant humour of Arlo Guthrie. An all too short set but a tantalising glimpse into Ms. Stevens’ talent.