Simone Felice, Leaf, Manchester, 30th April 2019

Dressed in black jeans, black shirt and a crumpled black jacket; with unkempt hair and a greying, wispy beard, Simone Felice shuffled unceremoniously on to the stage to open the first of two sets he delivered tonight.  Accompanied for the evening by only his acoustic guitar, Felice gave a cursory nod to his audience before opening the evening with the familiar ‘One More American Song’ from the 2009 The Duke and The King album ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’. From the start, a hushed room hung on every note and every word and this remained the case for the remainder of the night.

The first set also included ‘If You Ever Get Famous’ from the same album but with an additional verse added. Felice explained that the verse was in the original version but that he was told to cut the song down when it was recorded. However, he had reinstated it for recent live shows. Another older song newly added to his set was ‘Ballad of Sharon Tate’ which originally appeared on Felice’s 2011 self-titled debut solo album and which he had apparently never played live until its appearance on this current tour. The evening’s first set mixed other old favourites like ‘Splendor in the Grass’ and ‘You and I Belong’ along with a couple of songs from Felice’s most recent album, ‘The Projector’,  including his current single ‘Puppet’. After thirty minutes he left the stage to a warm ovation from a truly captivated crowd.

The second set began much as the first, with Felice quietly returning to the stage and starting off with a couple of older songs, ‘New York Times’ and ‘Charade’. He then enlisted some audience participation for what he described as, My only happy song,” before going on to explain that it was inspired by the death of his grandfather. ‘The Morning I Get to Hell’ gained Felice considerable exposure through its inclusion on the soundtrack of the 2017 Academy and Globe Award winning movie ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri’ (which is highly recommended if you haven’t seen it). The rest of the set continued to mix his back catalogue with songs from the new album. Indeed, it was ‘War Movie’, one of the songs from ‘The Projector’ that ended the set. At this point the house music came up in the form of The Doors ‘The End’, which Felice joyously and entertainingly danced to, before it was faded down to allow him to perform ‘Bye Bye Palenville’ as an encore; his audience happily complying with Felice’s invitation to sing along.

Simone Felice has rightly gained a reputation as an exceptional songwriter. He is also a very soulful and engaging live performer as evidenced by tonight’s show. He may need to supplement and expand his live sound in future, if he is to broaden his appeal to a wider audience. However, right now, one man, one guitar and a bunch of great songs made for a quite magical evening.

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