Live Review: William Prince, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow – 19th November 2023

King Tut’s on a Sunday night in late November appeared ominously quiet.  Looks can be deceptive though – turning the corner from the stairs to the main room I was met with a wall of people. Everyone who was out and about in this part of Glasgow was squeezed into the legendary venue, or so it seemed. All hushed expectantly for the appearance of William Prince.

I’ve noticed this before in this venue: the audience sings along to new album tracks and it happened tonight. From the opening strum of ‘When You Miss Someone’ half of the room joined in, “Is the moon shining bright/where you are is it even shining at all” they sang, as William Prince looked out, smiling through the song. A King Tut’s crowd can generally find a key and keep time, so this was not too much of an issue and by the time his deep baritone had got to “Is the silence quiet or loud/a lifetime of questions, lost and profound/professing to a silhouette of trees on the ground here in front of you” they had been left behind anyway, enthralled by the warmth of the performance.

He only used one guitar, mainly with a simple thumb strum. “Why dream of owning yet another guitar” he mused, “wouldn’t it be better to have more time to enjoy the morning” and he sparked into ‘Only Thing We Need’ which is a bit of a road song mixed with a call to slow down, live in the present and enjoy nature and the changing seasons. Great sentiment, just don’t tell the music shops. ‘Broken Heart of Mine’ is classic country, and could have been written any time in the last 70 years. It takes great craft to get fresh and relevant lyrics into an established format like this and the 37 year-old does this beautifully, “Don’t go faultin’ the assembly/ how I’m dealing with this heartbreak/ I’m just doing what they taught me/with a guitar and a drink.”

Lighthouse’ was dedicated to his seven-year-old son. The notion of knowledge passing down through generations is important, William Prince learned his trade from his father who was both preacher and musician. Throughout the show he engaged us with anecdotes and personal background. Fans will know all about his upbringing in the Peguis First Nation, but for those that didn’t he eloquently explained what this heritage meant to him. Eager to know more I looked it up after and spotted the Red River that runs, unusually, north to south, originating near Bois de Sioux, flowing past Fargo, North Dakota, winding all the way, bordering Minnesota, crossing into Manitoba through Winnipeg and ultimately spilling into the lake of the same name near his birthplace, Selkirk. It struck me that this route was analogous to Prince’s voice: crossing boundaries without obstacle, drawing from the influences of country, folk and soul from US states below and combining empathy and expression from the Peguis homeland.

Most of the seventeen-song set was from the new album, which is called ‘Stand In Joy’ but there was a good chunk from 2020’s ‘Reliever’ (‘The Spark’, ‘Wasted’, ‘That’s All I’ll Ever Become’, ‘Lighthouse’, ‘Leave it by The Sea’) and a selection from the 2018 ‘Earthly Days’ including its haunting title track.

By engaging with the audience throughout, he transformed a set built on more than a few melancholic tracks into a much lighter affair. The on-stage sound was supplemented by Stephen Arundell who added a southern soulful feeling on electric guitar. Those of you who know King Tut’s will be aware of the overflow space at the side with virtually no view. Unbeknown to the stage, a few couples made good use of this, close-dancing to the sweet, lush, genteel tones, in particular the most commercial song ‘Tanqueray’. Regarding commerciality, he joked about his “overlords” – “the people at Spotify” – and how musicians must do things to please them. Seeming to change subject he then announced that he was now going to play a traditional folk song. The crowd were in on the joke sharpish again “You are my fire” they sang in accompaniment, as he launched ‘I Want it That Way’, giving the Backstreet Boys’ pop ballad a dark, country makeover.

There was a showstopping finale with ‘The Spark’. It’s good to leave them wanting more. It would have been nice to hear some tracks from 2020’s ‘Gospel First Nation’ LP, and a few more songs from the latest album; ‘Young’ being a notable omission. But more to look forward to next time. He tours Canada in the early spring but hopes to return to UK soon and with a bigger show and full band – we await the announcement. It would be nice to see some of him in sunshine at any of the americana-tinged park-fests, or even spreading the word with same age-group artists like Lizzo, James Arthur and Paolo Nutini at the mainstream summer festivals.

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