Even with the air con working overtime The Fleece is always stifling, but with a gig this good no one cared. Opening act Our Man In The Field had suffered the loss of some of their kit in Brighton the previous night, leaving Henry Senior playing Dobro rather than his more familiar Pedal Steel. This led to an interesting contrast to my last live experience of Henry and singer Alex Ellis with the music sounding darker. Highlights were a couple of songs from their recent sessions in Portland bound for the next album, hopefully due soon. Alex explained the story behind one of the new songs, ‘Feel Good’ as relating to a rip off he suffered from a manager. The audience gave close attention to their set, with The Fleece quiet throughout the songs. They won some new fans tonight judging by the brisk business at the merchandise stall after their set.
After a short break The Delines appeared, opening with ‘This Ain’t No Getaway’, from their latest album ‘The Sea Drift’, from which a fair proportion of the set came. ‘Eddie & Polly’ from 2019’s ‘The Imperial’ along with that album’s title song were highlights of the set. Mind you, avoiding the album’s ‘Holly The Hustle’ tonight was probably a wise move as the Fleece proprietor is called Holly. An instrumental from the CD which accompanied Willy Vlautin’s latest novel ‘The Night Always Comes’ allowed the cinematic quality of the Delines’ music to shine.
Reaching back to their first album, ‘Colfax‘, they played ‘Colfax Avenue’ and a wonderful take on ‘The Oil Rigs At Night’. Amy Boone’s voice has evolved since that album came out in 2014 and she packs more emotion live into Willy Vlautin’s words than on record – she may just have become my new favourite singer. ‘Little Earl’, the best song on ‘The Sea Drift’ was also one of the best tonight. But then it was hard to pick favourites with a band who were this good. Sean Oldham’s drums and Freddy Trujillo’s bass hold down a languid soulful groove, over which Vlautin’s guitar and Cory Gray’s keyboards float. Gray also plays trumpet in a style that recalls fifties Miles Davis.
Following a three song encore that concluded with ‘Let’s Be Us Again’ they were gone, with Boone looking for a bottle of Welsh Whisky with her name on it. While waiting to say goodbye to Alex and Henry from our Man In The Field I got talking to a lady who knew Vlautin from his books and had not heard the music until this evening. “The songs are just like the stories” she told me and she was right. Gig of the year so far from the makers of the album of the year so far.