The Attic, The Railway Inn
Thursday 13th October 2016
Hey Bobby Ray
If You Ever Get Famous
Summer Morning Rain
Don’t Wake The Scarecrow
Moonlight Promises (guessed title)
New York Times
You and I Belong
Bye Bye Palenville
One More American Song
2016 UK & Ireland Tour: Poster image
This is my annual Simone Felice concert, and it’ll be my eighth review. It’s hard to know what to add. Simone has had a very good year as a producer. First came The Lumineers Cleopatra album, then Bat for Lashes’ The Bride. They provide much deserved public acclaim … at last. Cleopatra was number one in the UK, USA and Canada, plus #2 in Australia, and Simone co-wrote the title track, Cleopatra, as well as Angela. He co-wrote Widow’s Peak on The Bride, a Top Ten UK album, and Top 30 US album.I bought both albums, and was delighted that his name as producer had led me to more great music.
2016 hit albums, produced by Simone Felice
What we need now is the same press and public attention to his own material.
It’s the first gig on a fortnight’s tour of the UK and Ireland, and he’d just flown in, and was jetlagged. When we were waiting downstairs, the bar was packed with an unexpected clientele … younger, all male. Hmm, I thought. The Lumineers hit is bringing in a younger crowd. Wrong. I’d forgotten there were two venues at The Railway Inn, The Attic (for Simone Felice) and The Barn … they don’t usually run simultaneously, but tonight they did. The act in The Barn were listed as K_nt and The Gang on posters, utilising an underscore. But when the bell rang and their name was announced over the tannoy it was as Kunt & The Gang. We watched their patrons disappear, and said ‘Tsk Tsk’ before filing into The Attic.
I’ll do the support, Lucy Kitchen, at the end.
Simone started with singing Sugar Mountain unaccompanied by guitar. It was almost like a mic test that got carried away rather than a proper opening song. Never mind, he does great Neil Young, and we loved it.
He is always different. This time, no accompanying musicians at all. Simone and guitar. It freed him I felt … well, hang on, he always seems completely free … but freed him even more to play with the material, act it out, play it up, drop into spoken voice, whistling, humming, howling, tapping guitar, stamping feet. It was like a blues singer, continually embellishing, altering, re-exploring songs, and as ever at full intensity. The contrast is last year’s live double CD From The Violent Banks of the Kaaterskill where he was working with Anna Mitchell, The Felice Brothers and friends for band performances. Tonight there was no set list on stage, with no accompanists to keep informed.
In the opener Hey Bobby Ray he picked up that people were singing along, paused and asked everyone to do it … as ‘a choir of dead Indians’. The final song of the main set Bye Bye Palenville had a singalong rehearsal for the chorus too. It opened the live double album, it closed this set. The change was hearing it accompanied by guitar, rather than piano as with Anna Mitchell (and the truly great online video).
There were a couple of songs that weren’t on From The Violent Banks of the Kaaterskill too, Molly-O and Summer Morning Rain. I mentioned the rhyme with Poughkeepsie in Molly-O in a previous review (April 2014):
Years ago, a reviewer said that had the Woodstock Festival in 1969 been correctly named the Poughkeepsie Festival, Joni Mitchell would never have been able to write a song about it. Simone’s done it:
Oh, my that road sign says fifty miles to Poughkeepsie
And she said: It’s you and only you, baby blue,
who can bring out the gypsy, in me.
Tonight after ‘gypsy in me’ he gave a little wince turning into a smile, pointing it.
The standout events of the evening were two new songs. Simone talked about coming to the Mercury Music Awards for The Bride, and people asking him about his new career as a producer. Was that the end of the songwriter and performer? The smile. No way. He is generally relaxed about Smartphone cameras, but he asked everyone to put them down, because we were going to get the UK debut of two new songs. They are still work in progress, not recorded yet, so he does not want them being circulated. I remember him playing New York Times, now an essential part of the set, a few years ago as a new one.
The Fawn is classic Simone Felice. As ever the lyric takes you on a journey and you’re transfixed, but you’re not trying to remember the words. He said it was about the sex trade; and the semi-slavery, or plain slavery, of immigrant sex workers is much in the news. This had lines about escaping, running away. I guess then it’s a fawn (baby deer, or Bambi) rather than a faun (half human half goat). The second is a satyr if male, but can be female. That’s the pleasure of just hearing it … until it’s in print it could be either. Deer are a Catskills thing though … I’m told you daren’t let your dogs out of the house in hunting season when the hunters come up from New York City and shoot at anything that moves in the woods. One hearing … I await the recording
He didn’t give us the title of the second new song, at a guess it’s Moonlight Promises, but again, great melody, intriguing lyrics. All the Felice hallmarks were there.
During the long applause before the encore, someone called out One for Mr Zimmerman as today was the day Bob Dylan was awarded the Noble Prize for Literature. Simone agreed, ‘One for Mr Zimmerman … without him, none of us would be here.’ His next remark broke us up, but no plot spoilers for future concerts. I half expected I Shall Be Released or Knocking On Heaven’s Door (he’s done them before), but no, we got a reflective One More American Song, Simone’s work but undoubtedly Dylan level in its lyrics. The dream is of a mythical Union Street …
There’s a place I heard about once,
A place called Union Street
A place on high,
A place where we could all be one
Afterwards I asked Simone if choosing this song as ‘One for Mr Zimmerman’ was a subtle reference to Dylan’s painting A House On Union Street, which seemed to be the central display print in every gallery displaying Dylan’s limited editions (£3500 to you, guv’nor) but I was over interpreting. It wasn’t.
Bob Dylan: A House on Union Street
As with every year recently, Simone Felice’s visit is a high point in the musical calendar. However often you hear the songs, there’s always a different inflection
Sun In My Moon
Love & Sorrow
Searching For Land
Lucy Kitchen took the support slot. She’s from Southampton and has played The Attic before. She has that English folk tone of Sandy Denny or Laura Marling, lovely to listen to through an all original set, mixing songs from her album Waking with some new ones. I thought she made a slight tactical error in that she said she didn’t know whether to do a Laura Marling song or one of her own. Someone called out ‘one of your own’ and she did (and it was beautiful) BUT my advice after years of seeing support acts doing material that is necessarily unfamiliar to most of the audience, is do one cover version. You don’t need more than one, but just one well-known song that the audience can tie in too because they’re familiar with the melody. It gives them a yardstick. I’d have advised the Laura Marling song at that point (hoping it wasn’t an obscure one). Still, an excellent choice of opening act.