The Long Ryders + The Hanging Stars, Gorilla, Manchester, 10 April 2019

It seems that nearly everyone you speak to arrived at this thing we call Americana via a different route. One area of commonality though, is that The Long Ryders were an important step on that journey, or indeed, for some, the beginning of it. For this reason, the band continue to be held in high regard and with great affection by their loyal fan base. The demographic of tonight’s audience suggests that the majority are long-standing fans. Long Ryder’s shows in recent years have been hugely enjoyable nostalgia trips. This year, there is a new dynamic; the band have released the excellent ‘Psychedelic Country Soul’ album, to critical acclaim and no little commercial success (Sid Griffin took much delight in informing the audience that it had reached number one in the official UK Americana album chart).

Having new material for the first time in nearly thirty years forced the band into some tough choices; how many of the new songs should go into the live show? What should they leave out to accommodate the new stuff? Sid Griffin told the crowd that it was an easy decision, “I don’t want to be playing the same set forever”. In the end the band got the balance about right, playing ten new songs out of a total set of twenty-three. The new material being so strong, undoubtedly compensated for the absence of crowd-pleasing live favourites such as ‘Ivory Tower’ and ‘Run Dusty Run’. This, along with the trust and respect that the band’s following have for The Long Ryders, ensured that the new material was well received throughout.

‘Gunslinger Man’ followed by ‘You Don’t Know What’s Right, You Don’t Know What’s Wrong’ gave the opening a familiar start, before the band played four consecutive new songs, of which ‘What the Eagle Sees’ was the pick. This run of songs was beset by problems with Sid Griffin’s guitar. Thankfully this was eventually sorted out. Whilst that might be seen as unfortunate, it also corresponded with Griffin trying to sing the words from laminated sheets. Despite this help, he at one stage forgot the words and later asked the lighting crew to put some white light where he was standing so that he could read them. This was disappointing. It’s difficult to give a convincing performance when singing from a sheet. Despite it being the first night of the tour, one can’t help but think that Griffin might have been better prepared. Neither of the Long Ryders’ two other songwriters, Steven McCarthy and Tom Stevens, needed such prompts when delivering their vocal performances.

As the run of new songs ended and the band swept into ‘I Want You Bad’ and ‘State of My Union’ all was quickly forgiven by a crowd determined to have a good time. From here on, the new and the old were more evenly interspersed. The 2017 single ‘Bear in the Woods’ was the highlight of the remaining new songs, whilst ‘Capturing the Flag’, ‘I Had a Dream’ and ‘The Lights of Downtown’ prompted the biggest crowd response to the old favourites. Two encores were played. The title track of the new album ‘Psychedelic Country Soul’ was listened to with quiet respect before a barnstorming finale of ‘Looking For Lewis and Clark’, where the crowd bellowed out the choruses.

Whilst not being the greatest show that the Long Ryders have ever given, the evening was greatly enjoyed by all present and the new material will hopefully create new crowd favourites for future tours, of which we can only hope, there will be many.

The evening got underway with a forty minute set from London based outfit The Hanging Stars. Their gentle, melodic country rock attracted a quietly appreciative grouping to the front of the stage, amongst whom they will have won some new fans. Sid Griffin later gave them his seal of approval. The band showed enough to warrant a further listen or indeed a first listen if you’ve not come across them previously.

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