Sam Outlaw could probably have been forgiven if he had been feeling a bit jaded. This was the 24th date of a punishing 28 gigs in 31 days European tour. On top of that, he had been quite ill in Norway and has a wife and two young children back home that he was missing. However, the quality and enthusiasm of his performance at Manchester’s Night & Day Café offered no clues as to any of that. It was only through Outlaw’s entertaining dialogue with his audience that they became aware of these circumstances.
Kicking off his set with the crowd pleasing ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ Outlaw had his audience hooked from the start. From there on in, he showed no sign of letting them get away. The set drew heavily from his most recent album ‘Tenderheart’ but also featured songs from its predecessor ‘Angeleno’ and a sprinkling of new material. Among the many highlights were a couple of duets with fiddle player Lydia Luce. ‘Forever and Always’ is Outlaw’s most recent release with Sarah Darling and ‘Together Again’ a Buck Owens cover. Luce also performed a barnstorming version of Lucinda Williams’s ‘Passionate Kisses’.
Earlier in the evening Luce had strapped on guitar and doubled up as support act, performing songs from her ‘Azalea’ album as well as a beautiful cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Early Morning Rain’.
As the evening progressed it became increasingly clear that Outlaw was not only glad to be here “one of my favourite towns” but that despite his gruelling schedule, he was clearly also enjoying himself. He talked with humour and affection about the tour, his family and life in general, informing his audience that he has recently moved from his native Los Angeles to Nashville “some of you may have heard of it – they used to make country music there”. Throughout the show Outlaw, through his songs and his personality, radiated a sense of not only of being the consummate artist but also a thoroughly decent bloke.
The set ended with ‘Trouble’ and after leaving the stage for a short while, Outlaw and band returned to perform a rather unlikely cover of REO Speedwagon’s ‘Take it on the Run’ but even that, he managed to somehow make work. The band then abandoned the stage and joined the audience to play a beautiful acoustic version of ‘Angeleno’ whilst all around them stood in total silence and utterly spellbound. Sam Outlaw seems made for a bigger stage but whilst all those in attendance will wish him well, many would also be happy to experience again that close rapport between artist and audience that is generated in more intimate venues.
Special thanks to Nick Barber for the use of his photos.