Simone Felice dazzles the basement of the Shipping Forecast. Getintothis’ Andy Kelly finds redemption in his songs of damage and sadness.
Mondays are rapidly becoming my favourite day of the week.
After last week’s trip to Anfield offered some glorious hints of a bright future for the Reds, it was music which fed the soul this time.
Simone Felice is best known for his work as drummer in the Felice Brothers and for his two acclaimed records as The Duke &The King, but this short tour is very much under his own name.
Things get off to a rather surreal start as in our basement venue we can still hear the quizmaster in the pub upstairs delivering the answers to tonight’s questions. Morrissey would no doubt have been off like a rocket, without the need for a plastic bottle, but Felice takes it in his stride.
‘Paw? Is that you Paw…?‘ he asks in mock terror of the voices coming from the ceiling above, not for the only time tonight reminding me of arch villain T-Bag Bagwell from Prison Break.
But it’s on with the show and the man from the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York is perched on a high stool in true troubadour fashion with his acoustic, accompanied by friends Matthew on lap steel guitar and Aurora on suitably restrained drums. The lovely Summer Morning Rain kicks us off and has a really timeless atmosphere as we get used to Felice’s at first rather odd style, his eyes rolling towards the ceiling as he gives every song total focus.
He’s got a great voice with a classic quality reminiscent of those great North American songwriters of the Californian Valley, whatever combination you like of Jackson, Neil, James et al. His writing seems intensely personal, almost too personal at times. His songs are full of the underbelly of America, the liquor stores, all-night pharmacies, hookers, heroin, pimps, cold and dimly-lit back rooms.
Don’t Wake the Sacrecrow is ‘about falling in love with a hooker‘ he tells us and you sort of don’t doubt that it’s authentic, especially since he’d probably have invented a slightly better name for her than Tracy, the name’s sheer ordinariness hitting you like a sledgehammer in the middle of the song.
If You Ever Get Famous is a plaintive reminder to friends not to forget him, while Union Street sees him question the America which has grown up around him. Felice survived major heart surgery last year, astonishing doctors by just being still alive and he’s not about to pull any punches now.
There’s only about 30 or 40 in tonight but Felice gives every song everything, never letting his intensity level slip and saying what a privilege it is to be able to play the songs for those who are here.
His between songs banter is welcome relief, chastising Paul McCartney for not letting him quote the lyrics to Blackbird in Felice’s upcoming short novel Black Jesus, a passage from which he reads beautifully tonight – he switched to Phil Collins and got Something Coming In the Air Tonight for Â£100 he tell us!
We end, suitably, with Neil Young‘s Long May You Run. Long may Felice run, for he is rapidly emerging as a great American songwriter, a troubled documenter of a nation’s conscience. There is sadness here, damage too, but also real prospects of hope and redemption.
Union Street live in Barcelona.