Another gig we waited two plus years for. Toronto’s Jerry Leger was building up a head of steam with two great releases (‘Nonsense & Heartache’ and ‘Time Out For Tomorrow’) under his belt when his 2020 tour of Europe was scrapped. But, silver linings and all that, Leger’s rescheduled tour arrived riding a wave of unalloyed praise for his latest record, the sublime ‘Nothing Pressing’, said by many to be the best of his two decades in the business.
Glasgow was the last show on the UK leg of an ambitious European tour and Leger and his band, The Distractions (Dan Mock – bass/vocals, Kyle Sullivan – drums/vocals, Alan Zemaitis – keyboard) , were by now well honed. The set list leaned heavily on the new album, rightly so, but there were a few diversions into the back catalogue which reminded us that Leger has a wealth of great material to choose from. Their opening shot, a short, sharp and sweet ‘Kill It With Kindness’ rumbled into a fiery ‘Corner Light’ which had Al Kooper like swirls of organ embedded within it. Given that they were playing in a basement, Leger’s description of ‘Recluse Revisions’ as a deep country basement song was quite apt as the band swamped into this faded lament of a bunch of old guys playing “Cowboy songs they know by heart.” ‘Is He Treating You Good?’, a song from the archives was a real country tearjerker while ‘Underground Blues’ sounded as if Leger was dredging around in Dylan’s muddy backwaters and on ‘With Only You’ there was a gorgeous sense of Lennon like vulnerability. It’s a song which really allowed Leger’s fine light voice plenty of space to roam while the band positively sparkled.
A brief solo acoustic interlude found Leger singing Neil Young’s ‘Old Country Waltz’, dedicated to his late friend Sean Whelan, and two songs from ‘Nothing Pressing’, the aching Alex Chilton like ‘Sinkin’ In’ and the title song which was given a sense of prairie hopefulness and eventual ennui. Solo, Leger was as engaging as with the full band and a whole set of songs such as these can just be imagined. Maybe he’ll agree to do some house concerts next time over.
Anyhow, as the band returned and plugged in, all hell was set loose. A thunderous blast of noise, like bonfire night and the 4th July combined, erupted. A rogue cable or input line or something was sourced as the culprit after a short while but it was genuinely scary. After some tentative plugging in and unplugging (and of course, some wag in the audience shouting out have you tried switching it off and on again!) and plugging in again, the gremlin was gone and the band, to their credit, soon hit their stride again. ‘Wait A Little Longer’ was infused with a 60’s like innocence and ‘It Don’t Make The Wrong Go Away’ positively ached with a longing which one associates with writers such as Rodney Crowell. They romped towards the end of the set with a rousing delivery of ‘Big Boy Blues’ and the slow vamp of ‘Factory Made’ which had Leger casually leaning on a convenient pillar, giving us his sales pitch (and the merch table was busy after). An encore was well deserved but, perhaps smarting from the gremlins, the sound guy switched everything off as the crowd were clapping for more. Undeterred, Leger and his guitar stepped down from the stage and gave us a wonderful solo delivery of ‘Dreamer, Pretender’. Triumph over adversity came to mind.
Despite the sound issues, it was apparent tonight that Leger is a force to be considered with. He looks cool, he sings brilliantly, the band are on fire and he has the songs to back all this up.
Before Leger blew us all away, Scott C. Park, a young songwriter from Lewis, accompanied by a keyboard player and drummer, entertained the early stalwarts who turn up for support acts. Despite a muddled sound mix, the drums way too loud, the vocals and guitar way too low, he turned in several songs which, having now heard some online studio versions, allow that he is an interesting listen. ‘Blind Eye’ in particular is well worth searching for although on the night it failed to display much of its subtlety.