I’d been waiting for this gig since Jack Savoretti supported Madison Violet at the Bonn Harmonie a couple of years ago. Jack’s career since then has been more than healthy, getting regular ‘A’ list airplay for his recordings on the BBC and playing bigger and better shows including the televised Glastonbury Festival and this years OnBlackheath. The current show is only the second of a European tour that started at Amsterdam’s Paradiso, will take in Berlin and Rome and include a ‘home’ date for Jack at the fabled Roundhouse in London on 15 October. Tonight though I am standing in a surprisingly long queue as I watch Jack and his ‘mini band’ of John Bird Jr (bass) and Pedro Vito (guitar) head out of the stormy wet and into the heat downstairs at MTC in Colgne’s Zulpicherstrasse.
By 8:20pm the inside of MTC is already in danger of splitting it’s tightly packed seams. More a venue for rockers (ex-Strangler Hugh Cornwell is a future guest) I’m wondering how Savoretti will fare here. Soundwise he doesn’t fare too well, and makes frequent requests and apologies about the problems. “Can I have more of everything please?” he says desperately at one point – before pointing out this is not a rock-star request for drugs. He actually wants to hear what he’s playing.
Canadian Support band The Seasons were somewhat punkier so the sound deficits weren’t so obvious. Their ‘Austin Powers meets the Monkees’ style was actually very enjoyably retro even if I could just about have lived it the first time around. Especially enjoyable was a rough edged take of ‘Stepping Stone’ that showed the aforementioned Monkees were actually a pretty useful band with some excellent material under the influence of Mike Nesmith. Full marks too for inventiveness on the instrument front as the band’s drummer knocked seven bells out of an old suitcase that replaced the more traditional bass drum. I suspect a real drum might bring brick dust raining down from the walls, maybe I should return for Mr Cornwell’s visit?
Generally though The Seasons have a light touch to their pop sound and I can’t help thinking their singer looked a lot like a young Donovan. Overall a band worth checking out and maybe ideal for the Alten Zoll next year by which time a CD will be available.
Last year at the Harmonie I saw Jack Savoretti hold the Madison Violet audience enthralled for a completely solo set. The audience this evening is already his, but can he hold it? After the solo show I was looking forward to seeing Jack with his own band, and sadly I’m still only half way to that dream. The old songs were perfect for solo and the new ones are really better for a band with drum and keyboard – neither of which is present onstage this evening.
Jack’s Martin 000-28VS is really too delicate a precision instrument for MTC but his ‘other’ deadly weapon, that husky, slightly nasal voice of his, is more than enough to keep the sweating masses (many of them young girls waving cell-phones) happy. I was disappointed, given the pared down backing band, not to hear the older classics like ‘Harder than Easy‘ or ‘Dr Frankenstein’ but up-tempo numbers like ‘Not Worthy’, ‘Tie Me Down’ and ‘Knock Knock’ still hit the musical spot.
Dylan’s little known ‘Nobody ‘cept You’ is a popular choice too. “It’s amazing how audiences always go quiet when you mention a Bob Dylan song” Jack noted in a recent interview and Cologne audiences are seemingly no exception.
In fact this is possibly the most polite audience I’ve ever witnessed, with Jack saying “Thank you” at the end of songs only to hear people calling out “Thank you!” back. It’s a laid back concert with all three men onstage sitting comfortably on bar stools. Jack himself is ‘book-ended’ by the ever serious face of Pedro Vito and his powder blue Fender on one side and ever smiling Irishman John Bird Junior on bass guitar at the far side from me. They make a good impression despite the sound limitations and have me hoping that someone (in Bonn?) will give Jack a stage big enough to bring out a full band and do real justice to the fuller sound that his current music demands.
‘Shine a Light’ is a fitting number to end the set with, just before the stage lights themselves momentarily go out and plunge the room into darkness. I follow the stream heading I hope in the direction of the stairwell, a bit of late daylight, and oxygen. “Summers over, as you probably noticed from today’s weather” Jack had joked earlier. ” It’s still pretty hot down here though!” Up on Zulpicherstrasse the street was filled with people still having a good time – drinking, smoking and laughing. I catch myself thinking how great it would be for such a street to exist in Bonn at 11 pm. Back down the stairs Jack Savoretti is hopefully happy about the reception in Cologne if not the sound. I’m wishing I could have given him a visiting card for Bonn Folk Club. I suspect his schedule won’t have a spare first Friday of the month in it for some considerable time though…
last, but not least, Jack performing ‘Not Worthy’ in Cologne…