John Hiatt at Under the Bridge
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of his 1988 record Slow Turning, John Hiatt is embarking on a lengthy tour both of Europe and the States, performing the classic album with some newer tracks thrown in (as what he calls “deviations”). Last night he came to Under The Bridge, Chelsea football stadium’s own music venue. The open, relaxed and surprisingly large space provided the perfect setting for the US singer-songwriter’s performance. Throughout the show, the frontman and his band (The Goners, featuring Sonny Landreth), whilst laid back, radiated confidence and a polished aesthetic that was instantly charming. This is exactly what you would expect from an all-American country gig.
The flipside of this, however, was that the energy of the music felt restricted, and never seemed to reach beyond a certain level, resulting in an occasionally homogenous listening experience. Either the musician worked against this by exploring the stylistic and emotional range of his genre (itself arguably limited) – with songs like Icy Blue Heart coming just after Tennessee Plates – or it happened in spite of him. In any case, the audience was in awe of the artist’s amusing, loquacious manner that permeated both the songs themselves and the intermediary talking.
In addition, it was interesting to note the considerable difference between the tracks that came from Slow Turning and the relatively newer material. In The Tiki Bar Is Open, the music at last broke out, largely thanks to the much stronger presence of the blues and the wild guitar riffs from Landreth. Again, in Riding With the King (aptly named), the more rock-influenced side of the artist’s sound came through, and the sudden increase in energy was mirrored by the crowd’s appreciative reaction. As was made clear by the twinkle in his eye and his busy facial expressions, the vocalist was alive and enjoying himself. The on-stage rapport between Hiatt, Landreth and the Goners was also very strong, and they performed as a unit.
As the concert progressed, the musician began to play more and more on the keyboard. This actually had an influence on the style of the numbers he performed, and the concert moved from a fairly strict country gig into the more varied setlist mentioned above. The climax of this transition into ballads was the singer’s most famous hit Have A Little Faith In Me, which was the most well-received song of the night.
As a performance, Hiatt’s concert was undeniably tepid, and it was strange that this was the case given its more objective elements. The sound quality was perfect and his voice balanced neatly with the band; the musicianship on show was impressive and very professional; and the musical aesthetic was confident and polished. And yet, in sum, it came across rather pedestrian, and at times even flat.
Photos: Erol Birsen
For further information and future events visit John Hiatt’s website here.
Watch the video for Slow Turning here: