Shakey Graves at Vicar Street, Dublin, on Friday 16th of November 2018

Having been forced to cancel last year’s appearance due to the Beast from The East weather event, Shakey Graves aka Alejandro Rose-Garcia finally made good on his promise to return to Dublin last Friday in Vicar Street.

The Texas musician had the small matter of releasing his latest album ‘Can’t Wake Up’ and starring in several film projects, including Robert Rodriguez’s upcoming Sc-Fi flick Red 11, to contend with first – to find out more about this read our recent interview with Shakey Graves here.

Shakey Graves is famed for his percussion suitcase, one-man-band approach to country music and even though his current record has stepped away from that, the suitcase still features heavily in tonight’s performance. Rose Garcia emerges on stage wearing a white t-shirt and a beanie hat to commence proceedings on his own before he mimics Bob Dylan going electric and brings on the full band later in the performance.

Whereas your average artist can curate their set so that it has the perfect balance of new and old material, Shakey Graves is somewhat hamstrung in this regard due to the fact that it would be quite time consuming to have musicians darting to and fro between songs. As such, the set swings between new and old material, with the band arriving on stage for a string of songs before leaving Rose-Garcia to his own devices again.

Rose-Garcia’s playful personality is as loud as his band, and he frequently regales fans with the comedic stories of the youthful mishaps behind his songs, including thinking that amphetamines were cool and buying moonshine on a road trip. Many of his stories have an elusive American coming-of-age vibe that the audience will only have experienced second-hand in Hollywood movies, which suits Shakey Graves’ music perfectly.

Roll The Bones exemplifies Shakey Graves’ power as a solo performer, perfectly building the track into a cascade of feedback from gentle finger-picked beginnings. At times his solo set is reminiscent of Jeff Buckley – minus the wailing vocals – and this is one of those moments as the pace increases until the melody becomes almost unhinged, displaying incredible dexterity as he pushes his body and guitar to their limits.

There is an incredible array of vintage guitars on display and Shakey Graves and his band manhandle them in an appropriately unmannerly fashion. Counting Sheep, Kids These Days and Dining Alone showcase both the band and Shakey Graves fine new album, ‘Can’t Wake Up’, and yet somehow Shakey Graves feels bigger and bolder in the solo sections than he does in the band sections of the show. Even though they are note perfect and his vocals are technically more impressive throughout the band sections, there’s currently just something more intangibly visceral and freewheeling about him and his guitar.

That is not to say that the band sections are poor, because they are more than adequate; the drummer in particular is quite impressive throughout. Rose-Garcia just seems a little more natural and comfortable on his own. And that’s unsurprising considering that’s how he’s spent the majority of his career to date. Perhaps by the time he rolls around this way again the balance between solo and band will be in perfect equilibrium, but for now he’s 9/10 solo and 7/10 with the full band. And while getting a 7 is like climbing Mount Everest for some bands, you can’t help but feel that with time they will find the magic combination.