Review: JD McPherson at WhelansTweet
JD McPherson in Whelans on July 12th 2012
Crossing the Atlantic twice in three days is no mean feat. Add in three shows in those three days and you’ve got yourself a dedicated band of musicians. JD McPherson and his band have a London date and one in Whelan’s Dublin, slap bang in the middle of shows in Virginia and Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Before the seemingly hardest working band in the world take the stage, the growing Whelan’s crowd is warmed up by The Louisiana 6, Dublin’s very own rock n’ rollers. They begin their set with their version of Alabamy Bound and it doesn’t take long for the crowd to take notice. The sextet have them bopping within minutes. The band contain a trio of Brereton’s, John, Tony and Brian ‘Slim’ on lead vocals as well as Doey Mooney on harmonica, Morgan Baker on guitar and the amazing Tim Fearnly on double bass.
Classics such as Darlin’ Cory, which originates in the 1920′s are aired, and the audience appreciation gets louder with each song. The band themselves are an interesting bunch and so is their age range. Looking at the stage, there could easily be four or five decades difference between vocalist Brian ‘Slim’ and double bass player Tim. ‘Slim’ doesn’t let that stop him, as he tells the story of a train going through a toll on the last song of their set. As the rest of the band give their all, ‘Slim’ is busy doing his train-like dance moves. They receive a great reaction for a great set.
JD McPherson and his band take to the stage and JD immediately starts thanking people for coming out to see him, admitting that it ‘sounds like the end of the gig not the start’. After chatting, the band begin with Dimes For Nickels. It becomes apparent very quickly just how slick these guys are. Looking around the venue, the guys have rock n’ roll haircuts and the ladies are wearing pretty dresses, we could easily have been transported back in time – a la Back To The Future – to 1955.
With effortless ease, we are given a masterclass in rock n’roll. As tracks from the album ‘Signs and Signifiers’ are played, the musicians show their class. A knowing nod is all it takes onstage and with seemingly no set list, the drummer calls the shots. The energy in the room is electric, everybody is moving and dancing within two tracks. Indie kids take note, it’s ok to dance.
The double bass is a visually striking instrument, it’s big, players tend to quite animated. Jimmy Sutton is much more than that though, he’s also the producer of JD’s album and the band’s musical director. He’s got a great voice lending his lead vocals Bo Diddley’s You Don’t Love Me. Together, he and JD have produced an amazing musical event. As songs rise and fall, each musician is given their own time in the spotlight to showcase their talent. I Can’t Complain features an instrumental break which lets the keys, bass and guitar run free. Later, during Abigail Blue, the audience clap a beat out for the band and keep it going throughout, as they bring the full band sound back. Everyone here is an active part of what’s happening.
There are a couple of things that standout from tonight. This isn’t a throwback or a retro show, this is a showcase in how rock n’ roll is done. It’s timeless. JD McPherson has a fantastic tone to his voice, it’s authentic rock n’ roll and while it’s his name on the posters advertising the show, this is a total band effort and the balance is just right. Indeed to me, it was something very special. Many people sang along with the songs all night but Northside Gal is the song that everyone is instantly familiar with.
The set ends and the quintet leave the stage to rapturous applause, but hastily come back to their instruments as they’ve just found out about the ‘eleven o’clock curfew’. They quickly set about playing another three songs, squeezing in as much as they possibly can and based on the energy that’s oozing from them, they were only getting warmed up and could go for an another hour or two. This was an incredible, pure, rock n’ roll show. Next time, JD McPherson and his band will need a much bigger venue.