Bill Kirchen & Austin De Lone
Jumping Hot Club
23rd March 2017
I’m not getting to anywhere near enough gigs these days and tonight I had the dilemma of choosing between three on one night. Discounting the Folk singer was easy; but the triple header of up and coming British Country acts was only bumped because I’m too old for a roomful of beered up students ‘enjoying themselves’; so the tried and trusted Bill Kirchen at the Jumping Hot Club at my favourite venue, The Live Theatre was the easy winner.
When I arrived I was greeted with a long line of people queuing to get into the hall and a packed bar too……after all these years it appears Roots music really is becoming fashionable!
Promoting a new album Transatlanticana Bill was sharing the co-headline with his friend Austin De Lone and a genuine co-headline gig followed.
With no support act and only a wave and a smile as an introduction the four piece swept straight into Get a Little Goner from 2007’s Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods album, and the mood was set for a night of Twangtastic delight (and more).
As the polite applause died down Bill casually mentioned that they had a new CD for sale and they would play a few songs from it with the first being their nod to Merle Haggard, The Hounds of Bakersfield. A personal favourite from said album, it was a touch more ragged played live, adding a bit more playfulness to an already cool song.
By the fourth song, vocals were passed over to De Lone who was stood behind his Korg keyboards like a gunslinger. His first song of the evening, All Growed Up was a delightful piece of Western Swing, and provided a welcome change in pace.
The two then pretty much alternated the lead role for the rest of the evening, with De Lone almost ‘stealing the show’ with his dexterity on the keyboards; both on his own songs and when backing up Kirchen’s Honky-Tonky Country tunes too.
One of the highlights of the first set was another song from the new album, Oxblood, a Butch Hancock song and one perfectly suited to Kirchen’s laid back style.
Not all of the between song chatter made it’s way to the back of the hall where I sat; but I did get to hear that De Lone had once played in a band with John Steele from local legends The Animals; and one of their favourite songs to play was Ray Charles’ Blues In Hand, and the slow and moody tune was perfect for a dark venue like this and again, highlighted the duo’s versatility and dexterity.
In an evening of surprises; Kitchens’ signature tune Hot Rod Lincoln made an early appearance, closing the first set.
While it’s normally a highlight of his gigs; tonight I thought it was a bit stale and Bill’s heart didn’t quite seem to be in it; apart from when he threw ‘piano players’ names at De Lone who rose to the challenge and received a huge cheer when Bill called out “Professor Longhair” and in the blink of an eye Austin tinkled something in that definitive style (I think).
The second half got off to a rollicking start with another song normally associated with Commander Cody; Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette. Obviously not ‘politically correct’ in 2017 it actually sounded more radical for that.
As if they had got a second wind; or more likely they know how to pace a show the gait picked up with De Lone rocking the joint with a rendition of Dr. John’s Such a Night which was followed by Bill ripping it up on his own Rockabilly Funeral…..a request for “Bob, who recently had a Rockabilly Funeral.”
The band then had a blast with 1969 from the new album; inventing Alt. Psychobilly along the way; then just to be contrary followed that with a breathless adaptation of Big Joe Turner’s Flip, Flop AMD Fly!
It wasn’t until Bill introduced The Times They Are a’Changing by saying he saw Dylan perform it at his High School in 1964 that it dawned on me how old these guys really are! In fairness to Kirchen though; he looks like a man who has lived a full life, and has the lines to prove it……and boy, is there a book in his face that I’d love to read.
After the obligatory ‘will they/won’t they’ the band came back for a couple of encores; the first being the corking and old fashioned Rock and Roll ballad, Think It Over which would have brought a tear to a glass eye; and then the night ended with a sloppy, under rehearsed and rather beautiful rendition of Chuck Berry’s Nadine for the Rock and Roll legend who died two days previously.
This was the fourth time I’ve seen Bill Kirchen play live, and each one has been a real treat; but tonight with the addition of Austin De Lone was perhaps my favourite of all.