Sam Amidon at Bush Hall
A truly immersive live experience is a rare thing, but Sam Amidon’s compositions instantly transport the listener on an intrepid yet mystical journey.
Last night the Vermont-born artist celebrated his latest release Bright Sunny South with an utterly mesmerising concert at the intimate Bush Hall. Together with multi-instrumentalist Chris Vatalaro, Amidon demonstrated intuitive musicianship: every song was so beautifully constructed that the end result was seamless, leaving the audience captivated and blissfully unaware of their precise and studied execution.
The opener Short Life emphasised Amidon’s old soul voice, full of lament, accompanied by thoughtful fingerpicked guitar and atmospheric, distorted sounds. In contrast, As I Roved Out was immediately assertive. While Vatalaro ingeniously employed a set of keys and whistles as percussion, Amidon made emotive use of a harsher tone of voice against his rattling banjo. His foot stomped until the final refrain, which was left hauntingly suspended without accompaniment: “Did you rather feel such pain?”
Amidon’s vocal ability is enchanting – at once expressive, restrained, listless and heartfelt. It inhabits the otherworldliness of his music, with each inflection evoking the different traditions that inspire him: folk, country, pop, hymns and old Irish songs.
“We’ve been listening to the music called jazz, a beautiful genre,” Amidon explained and although last night’s performance missed the new record’s trumpet part, one of many highlights was the singer’s delightful interpretation of a Chet Baker scat solo.
Amidon speaks with the same directness that he employs when singing. This allows him to move between hopeful (I Wish I Wish) and melancholic subjects (My Old Friend) with ease. Even the humorous anecdote about how Jimi Hendrix “spoke to [him] from his grave” was suggestive of the folklore at the foundation of his work.
Perhaps a believer in saving the best for last, Amidon’s encore delivered both an epic finale in the form of Climbing High Mountains (with its screeching violin, whoops and claps) and his beautifully unrecognisable cover of R. Kelly’s Relief. The latter marked the most touching moment of the night, as the crowd gently harmonised with the song’s chorus: “What a relief to know that there’s an angel in the sky, what a relief to know that love is still a lie.”
Amidon deconstructs songs both ancient and new to recreate traditional music, injecting it with playful modern insights and youthful imagination. An exceptional talent, he is undoubtedly worth watching.
Photos: Sarah Louise Renwick
For further information and future events visit Sam Amidon’s website here.
Watch the video for As I Roved Out here: