Live Review: Margo Price + Tommy Prine, Lafayette, London – 25th August 2023

Margo Price live at the Lafayette, London 25th august 2023
Margo Price’s two costumes © Matt Andrews

This was Margo Price’s first gig in the UK since she played the C2C: Country To Country Festival in March 2018 at the O2 Arena in London. Much has happened since then, Price has released two studio albums, a live LP recorded at the Ryman, given birth to a daughter and written an autobiography documenting how she overcame substance abuse, financial hardship, a spell in prison and the death of one of her sons. Given the paucity of live shows by Price in the UK since her last tour here in 2017, the 600 capacity Lafayette had sold out well in advance and people had made the pilgrimage to see her from as far a field as Newcastle and Belgium.

The previous evening, Price and her husband Jeremy Ivey had made an instore appearance at the Rough Trade East record store in Brick Lane. The moustachioed Ivey was suitably bleary eyed having not slept for 24 hours owing to binge watching the TV series Ted Lasso right up to getting on the plane to London. After a question and answer session with Price, Ivey joined her on stage to play an eight song acoustic set which culminated with a great acapella version of Janice Joplin’s ‘Mercedes Benz’, before Price signed records and books.

The evening at the Lafayette commenced with a set by the amiable Tommy Prine, the youngest son of John, who was equipped with just an acoustic guitar. He plays ‘Observations’ a humorous stream of consciousness centred on a foster dog named Maggie, which he had to apologise to his wife for suggesting they keep her in the basement. The dry wit continues with ‘Gandalf’ an ode to “Lord Of The Rings”. ‘Piling Up’ not only refers to the build up of domestic chores, but how life can be overwhelming. Prine’s set ends with the beautifully, poignant ‘Ships in the Harbor’, about the fleeting nature of life and the death of his father, it was named the Saving Country Music 2022 Song of the Year.

Margo Price’s set up at the Lafayette is very different from the previous day’s one at Rough Trade. She takes to the stage clad in a white fringe dress with black cowboy boots. She’s joined by Jeremy Ivey primarily on acoustic guitar and harmonica. Ivey and Price are flanked by two great guitarists, a bassist and with a keyboard player and drummer stationed behind them. On some songs, when Price is playing her 1960s Gibson acoustic or electric, there are four guitar players on stage. The band are tight and well rehearsed despite the jetlag. The set commences with ‘Been To The Mountain’ from Price’s latest album ‘Strays’, songs from which comprise a third of the set. However, there’s plenty to please fans of her first two albums with three songs from ‘Midwest Farmer’s Daughter’ and four from ‘That’s How Rumor’s Get Started’.

Price turned 40 last April. She was given a dulcimer to mark the occasion and although she remarks sardonically that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, she does a decent job of playing it despite a slight slip up at the beginning of one number. After a quality version of The Band’s ‘Evangeline’, played as a tribute to the recently departed Robbie Robertson, Price and the band play ‘Strays’ from ‘Strays II’ which is a companion album to Price’s latest LP due for release in the autumn. It’s the story of how Price and Ivey met and fell in love in Nashville 20 years ago.

Half way through the performance Price leaves the stage whilst the band are jamming and changes into a red sparkly fringed number. After the slick costume change, spying a elderly woman in the audience she jumps into the crowd to sing and dance for her. Anybody who’s been wondering why there are two drum kits on the stage, but only one drummer soon has their question answered when Price gets behind one of them at the end of several songs to demonstrate her prowess on percussion with some kick ass jams with the band’s full time skin basher Dillon Napier.

The set comes to an end with ‘Paper Cowboy’ followed by ‘Heartless Mind’. The band are called back to play a rocking version of Paul McCartney and Wings’ ‘Let Me Roll It’ as the 10 pm curfew brings things to a close. Before she leaves the stage, Price takes a bunch of red roses and graciously hands them out to individual members of the audience.

In his 2017 book, “Uncommon People: The Rise And Fall Of Rock Stars”, the writer David Hepworth argues that the “rock star” is dead and that although “it’s never been easier to play [the game of rock and pop]; it’s never been harder to win”. Judging by tonight’s excellent performance Price is well on the way to winning and the next time she plays the UK it will be at considerably larger venues.

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