John Fullbright & Amy Speace – Jumping Hot Club Gateshead (2013

John Fullbright & Amy Speace
Jumping Hot Club
October 2013

The delightful Amy Speace opened tonight’s proceedings with a mix of old and new songs so good; I was left scratching my head wondering why she’s still not headlining UK Tours.

She has an exquisite voice (not a million miles away from Emmylou in her younger days) which, matched with her dark and brooding songs, like The Hunter are a musical marriage made in Heaven. As the short set flew by Amy introduced The Sea and the Shore which needed a ‘good strong male voice; before calling John Fullbright on stage; much to the delight of the young women sitting to my right. The song itself was exquisite; Americana at its’ finest but with Southern Gothic overtones.

Amy ended her set with a song from her 2009 album The Killer In Me, that Judy Collins had recorded The Weight of the World. I’ve seen Amy play live a couple of times now and not heard this song before; but after hearing this spine tingling performance of a song written from the perspective of a young girl thinking about her brother who is serving in the army I ordered the album from my smartphone during the break.

The modern theatre was soon packed with an assortment of Club regulars, local musical glitterarti and quite a few young ladies (which is quite a rarity at JHC gigs) and I thought I was at a One Direction gig, judging by the squeals that greeted the handsome an infeasibly young looking John Fullbright as he strolled across the stage .
As the noise died down he went to strap on his acoustic guitar then changed his mind; before sitting at his piano and launching into the raw and brittleJericho from the From the Ground Up album.

I suppose you could say that their is a ‘world weariness’ to Fullbright’s songs and voice, as he hardly moves his lips when he sings; but he still manages to exude a power that most Rock singers would be proud of and when he plays his piano he hits the keys so hard the notes definitely know they’ve been played.

Quite early on he slid in an unrecorded song (possibly) called The Child in Me which had an almost Classical melody and some deep and profound lyrics.

For the first 50 or 60 minutes I was really impressed with a series of intense and intelligent songs that were interspersed with some very funny and often self-depreciating stories and jokes.

As is  the case with ‘next big things’ and John Fullbright certainly takes that accolade at the moment; it’s easy to be cynical and suspicious, but with this young man I really think he’s the ‘real deal.’ He has songs that touch you and remain memorable days later; even when their melodies are quite limited; these truly are about the words and stories.

One of the highlights of the evening was when John made a joke about the current political situation in the USA (no discernible Government at the time of writing) and then performed Fat Man which had echoes of both Randy Newman and Tom Waits.

Prior to tonight I only knew a couple of Fullbright’s songs and I can’t say I was overly impressed but the magnificent Satan and St. Paul touched me so much I had to borrow £10 off a friend to buy From the Ground Up at the end of the concert.

Several years ago I got really angry when Neil Young released Living With War and claimed no one else was writing about the subject. I got angry because songwriters of all ages and genres were and are writing very eloquently about every aspect of this horrible subject; apart from War being a good thing; and tonight Fullbright’s sensitive version of Dan Bern’s After The Parade Has Gone must stand shoulder to shoulder with the very, very best.

It’s difficult to talk about John Fullbright without getting carried away with hyperbole; but he truly is a talent that should be cosseted, nurtured and screamed about from the highest buildings.

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