Like a vampire, Cass McCombs only functions in the dark.
‘Aww, maaaan, come on! Turn ’em lower, maaaaan,’ comes the instruction from his platform moments into his set.
This is the third time the lights have been lowered – and like a victim of acute meningitis, McCombs is deeply affected by the glare. Or what little there is left.
We were given a heads up pre-show of McCombs’ issues, as our snapper John, was asked to forward images to an agency which attempted to shoot without success on a previous night of the tour. At McCombs’ behest, he played in complete darkness.
This time round, there’s a dim red glow as he shrugs his way through a set which reflects his nomadic, unsettled nature. Notorious slacker, prolific song-writer, critical fave and epic rambler, McCombs’ music is timeless, rich in the American tradition yet executed with that of a true punk maverick.
That spirit seems wantonly absent in Liverpool, whether aggrieved by the light or merely aggrieved by nature, he rarely stumbles out of second gear – pulling you in, yet refusing to fully release or connect with your emotional core.
It’s underplayed, save for a chugging and snarling Love Thine Enemy which sees Cass reveal a bite disappointingly saved for another time. Or maybe for when the lights are turned off completely.
The Incredible String Band’s Mike Heron.
Earlier Mike Heron, he of mid 60s/early-70s psych-folk collective Incredible String Band, attempted to inject some light-hearted joie de vivre into the early part of the evening.
What would probably have sounded marvellous had we been whisked back to the land of grey and pink in ’71, merely translated as meandering whimsy, which while not out of place seemed altogether out of time.
Pictures by John Johnson.