Simone Felice Band
with Simi Stone
The Railway, Winchester
6 April 2012
Lo-res iPhone photo
Simone Felice Band:
Simone Felice – vocal, acoustic guitar, drums
Simi Stone – violin, vocals, percussion, guitar
Arthur House – piano, organ, vocal
Matthew Bolter- lap steel, mandolin, vocal
Aurora Bangarth – drums, vocal, xylophone, guitar
Simi Stone set:
Birds (Neil Young)
No Easy Way Out
Take Me With You *
Missin’ You *
Good Girl *
* From the 5-track CD ‘Simi’ (2012)
Simone Felice Band set
New York Times
You And I Belong
If You Ever Get Famous
Summer Morning Rain
Gimmee All You Got
Don’t Wake The Scarecrow
Hey Bobby Ray
Your Belly In My Arms
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
I reviewed Simone Felice at The Railway in Winchester a year ago. I thought then it was like seeing the young Neil Young starting out, or seeing David Bowie at the start of the Hunky Dory tour. There is a difference. David Bowie a year later was nowhere near as good as he’d been. Simone Felice was even better than he was in 2011. Last year was one of the best shows I’ve seen. This year, with Simi Stone and the new band, was even better.
The support set was Simi Stone solo, first doing (or rather improving) Neil Young’s ‘Birds’ from After The Goldrush, just accompanied by her electric violin. She switched to guitar, and the audience immediately applauded as she began No Easy Way Out, her great song from Long Live The Duke & The King. The next three songs were all from her solo 5-track CD, Simi, on sale at the venue. She accompanied herself on acoustic guitar. She had a fluff in Good Girl, but that added to the sense of NOW and the magic. All the songs were strong. I bought one. Interestingly it says ‘Recorded April 12th -16th 2012’ on the back. So I bought it six days before it was even … recorded … hang on … there has to be a typo there. She is a fabulous powerful singer, and very beautiful with great presence. How often does a support act get the whole audience shouting ‘More!’? I’m a curmudgeon on support acts, but this was the best I’ve seen since I saw America supporting King Crimson in 1972. They’d been booked as an obscure band, but by the time the tour got to me, they were #3 in the charts with Horse With No Name. Simi Stone got that sort of reception. It was her first solo gig in the UK and she thanked the audience ‘for breaking my cherry.’
The venue had moved from last year’s upstairs folk room, The Attic, to the downstairs room The Barn. It was a rectangle, standing only. I hate standing gigs, but in this case you would not have got the same intensity and power in a seated hall. Simone Felice has the charisma that very, very few singers have. He is at the Dylan, Springsteen, Young level. Seriously. Some accident of time (he was born in 1976) means that he’s playing small venues at £15 a head. That was clear last year, but add the band and you go up a notch. A few of us were saying ‘But what about The Duke & The King?’ but I see it as like Springsteen with Tunnel of Love, or Van Morrison with each album, or Neil Young; Felice is tailoring the current band to the current material. The new album is more intense / introspective and the instrumentation fits that. A more soulful direction will (hopefully) see The Duke & The King revived.
The band watch him like a hawk. There’s no question of who’s leader. This was the first gig of the UK tour (the first two were postponed), and the set contained the same songs as New York City a week or two earlier, though in a slightly altered order. One of the reasons they’re so powerful is that they were perfect at times (particularly in dynamic stops) but they also left room for the odd flaw and unexpected moment, which kept it strong and real. The Korg keyboards take either piano sound, or straight Hammond sound. The stringed instrument fills (lap steel or mandolin) take solos. Simi Stone has some magic violin moments, and you don’t miss bass, unusually for me, because the bass drum is used so effectively. There are four backing singers. Or rather Simi (doing different stuff) plus three backing vocalists.
The running order was carefully considered. New York Times, which he did solo last year, opens the set. The lyrics are powerful enough, but when halfway through, Simi and Aurora add sudden handclaps, it’s spine-chilling. They move into You And I Belong (which is the one from the new album they should be doing on TV shows to shift albums). The new album gets a good airing with six tracks out of ten. Simone Felice is now in the position where he has strong enough new material to do a fine set while dropping previous essentials (Union Street, The Morning I Get To Hell, One More American Song). Shaky, which almost has hit single status for UK fans, is radically reinvisaged, less funky, more hoedown even. A stunning moment comes when Simone and Aurora swop places, and Simone plays drums for Hey Bobby Ray. He’s a decent enough guitarist, but he’s a phenomenally good drummer. The set builds carefully so that Radio Song becomes huge, closing the main set. At the Railway they can’t actually go off stage, so they’re into the encores almost immediately: Your Belly In My Arms, then Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door with sing along … ending with just organ plus singalong. Phew! Simone Felice is one hell of a performer, and Simi Stone complements that perfectly. Two charismatic front people is as much as any band can expect to have. Few singers put their lyrics across with his intensity. Without doubt, one of the best gigs I have ever seen.
Knocking on Heaven’s Door: iPhone
The CDs were £10 and included the two “The Lost Tapes”. Simi’s 5 track was £5. Very fair prices. I came out with all three of those.
See also a related article on Gigs, venues and prices in general.
There is an article and personal top ten of Simone Felice at the “Toppermost” site with this link.