David Kitt at Whelan’s, Dublin, 24th October 2015

To say that no one knew what to expect from this David Kitt gig is a bit of an understatement. His New Jackson alter ego has been taking up much of his time of late, featuring on many summer festival bills. There’s also his side project, Spilly Walker, with his brother, and now and again he likes to steal the show by spinning classic soul and funk vinyl at random venues around the city and country. At Longitude 2013 he was the pied piper calling out from the woods to those who could take no more of Kraftwerk’s relentless dirge. There was almost a riot when curfew demanded he finish up.

So now we are back at Whelan’s, an old stomping ground for Kitt, for a solo show. His last record, the brilliant ‘The Nightsaver’ is now six years old and he has just completed an Irish tour – his first in a while – and there were also two well-received shows in Dublin’s Odessa. He’s in good form, chatting away to the crowd, anecdotes and jokes galore. There are clearly some close friends in the audience too which, in a slightly surreal turn, has Kitt as nervous as a first-timer. This from a man who has six albums under his belt and numerous hit singles.

The first part of the set has Kitt in full-on solo mode – just the man and his guitar. He leads off with a delay-ridden Shake It Up which has the modest crowd in such hushed reverence that you could hear a bottle drop. You Know What I Wanna Know also gets the pared-back treatment. Next is Say No More from ‘Not Fade Away’, which, Kitt reveals is actually set in Whelan’s. One can well imagine with the opening line: “Hit a real bad slump on  a Friday night / got whiskey drunk / got into a fight”. Well-known for his ability to re-intrepet the songs of others courtesy of 2004’s brilliant covers album, ‘The Black And Red Notebook’, tonight Kittser gives us a subdued and somewhat uninspired version of Prince’s “When Doves Cry”.

Thus far, despite a table full of mixers and blinking lights and an array of guitars, Kitt has kept to one guitar and has remained un-embelished by any drum machines or backing tracks. This all changes with the second part of the set which sees him joined by Margie Jean Lewis on violin and vocals. All the while the gig retains the air of a pay-to-play show where it’s only his mates in attendance. This keeps the anecdotes coming, such as the peach of a story about eating hash yoghurt on the set of Fair City before going on the Late Late Show. With You follows, getting the 12-string treatment and a country and western feel. At one point he stops his voice catches mid sentence and bizarrely he stops the whole song to explain that this was not an X-Factor emotional manifestation but that he’s recovering from a chest infection.

The third part of the set sees his New Jackson alter ego start to exert its influence with Kitt setting his guitar on a loop and manning the aforementioned control desk, twiddling knobs and bopping his head. One such foray is declared his favourite part of the set. Clear to see then what we can expect from the next album. Another slightly inadvisable cover then follows – this time it’s Leadbelly’s Where Did You Sleep Last Night, made famous by Nirvana on their ‘MTV Unplugged’ album. Wisely he doesn’t attempt to the Nirvana version but a much more ethereal interpretation follows. He winds up proceedings with the hypnotic No Truth In Your Eyes from ‘The Nightsaver’. The whole experience has been hypnotic. It’s great to have David Kitt back on stage with a guitar.