Live Review: Otis Gibbs, The Chapel, The Angel Microbrewery, Nottingham – 2nd June 2024

Otis Gibbs, live at The Chapel, The Angel Microbrewery, Nottingham. - 2nd June 2024
photo: Graeme Tait

The Chapel sits above The Angel Brewery, a character pub set within a 17th century building that was originally two separate humble town houses. The earliest document showing that the site had become a drinking house was in 1744, and in 1801 the upstairs became the meeting point for the National Ancient Imperial Union of Odd Fellows. 180 years later The Chapel, as it had come to be known, was converted to a gig room becoming a notorious rock ‘n’ roll haunt that saw early performances from the likes of Oasis, Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian. This evening, promoter James Windsor and the good people at Cosmic Americana Music, had decked the hall out with chairs for a different type of congregation, possibly more ‘Old Fellows’, than ‘Odd Fellows’, but all here to witness the return of one of America’s finest singer songwriters, Otis Gibbs, across in the UK for a small number of dates before returning to the U.S.

With no support act this evening Gibbs, originally from Wanamaker, Indiana, took to the stage shortly after 8.00pm to play one complete set. Somewhat self mockingly he introduced himself in the manner of a ‘talent show compere’ as he took to the stage in front of an audience of approximately 500, many who had seen Gibbs before, and a few who had travelled a fair distance. Picking up his solitary guitar Gibbs opened proceedings with ‘Second Best’, from his 2012 album “Harder Than Hammered Hell”, and quickly set the tone for the following 90 minutes with 16 songs spread across his nine albums released over the last twenty years. Gibbs is in good voice and has the relaxed, confident, between song patter that only comes with years working the pubs, clubs and joints around the world, immediately connecting with the audience and creating an ambient feeling more like the meeting of old (there’s that word again) friends which in many ways perfectly describes the night’s concert. ‘Sons & Daughters’, a track from his most recent album, 2020’s wonderful “Hoosier National”, was next followed by ‘Caroline’ and then ‘Sputnik Munroe’, a song that tells the true story of a legendary 1950’s wrestler from Memphis, a white man who preferred the company of the black musicians he befriended on the famous Beale Street, and that through his success forced the sport to become the first in the Southern States to allow desegregation.

Otis Gibbs, live at The. Chapel, The Angel Brewery, Nottingham. - 2nd June 2024
photo: Graeme Tait

‘Ed’s Blues’ and ‘Where Only The Graves Are Real’ continued proceedings with Gibbs mixing up the guitar accompaniment, often strummed with interspersed lead lines but occasionally finger picked helping to add just the right level of variation and support to his rich and soulful voice that, along with the sagacious nature imbued in much of his lyrical narratives and his white beard, help conjure the image of an elder statesman of the folklore tradition. An accolade well earned and truly deserved. Next up sees Gibbs visit his 2014 album “Souvenirs Of A Misspent Youth”, for the first time this evening, starting with the lyrically ominous ‘The Darker Side Of Me’, and then ‘Ghosts Of Our Fathers’,

For over 10 years Gibbs worked as a tree planter in Indiana, planting in excess of 7,000 trees, and much of his between song stories this evening were drawn from this period, regaling the audience with tales of many of the characters he met whilst carrying out this arduous and poorly paid employment. One might be tempted to draw comparison with the trials and limited remuneration gains of his previous role to that of a singer songwriter but hopefully the generous response after each song from the local congregation, who themselves were in good voice, provided it’s own acceptable compensational reward. Certainly Gibbs choice of profession over the last 20 years has brought great pleasure to many and tracks such as ‘Nine Foot Problem’, ‘Beto Junction’, and ‘Small Town Saturday Night’, continued to delight the crowd, even if he did forget the words to the final verse of the latter.

There was still time to take in the odd request from the audience that included ‘Kansas City’ before perennial favourite ‘Everyday People’, followed by the encore ‘Great American Roadside’, brought the night’s show to a close. I say encore, in truth, as is in keeping with many artists these days, Gibbs had explained earlier in the set that he wouldn’t be leaving the stage to await the usual audience demand for more. However, that didn’t stop tonight’s appreciative crowd from signifying their undoubted enthusiasm for a wonderful show from a master of his craft who, despite coming from the other side of the Atlantic was definitely made to feel very much at home at The Chapel in Nottingham.

Otis Gibbs, live at The Chapel, The Angel Brewery, Nottingham. - 2nd June 2024.
photo: Graeme Tait


About Graeme Tait 126 Articles
Hi. I'm Graeme, a child of the sixties, eldest of three, born into a Forces family. Keen guitar player since my teens, (amateur level only), I have a wide, eclectic taste in music and an album collection that exceeds 5.000. Currently reside in the beautiful city of Lincoln.
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