Friday, October 25, 2019

Jawbone - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 24 October 2019

I have a question.  What in the wide world of sports is going on when a band as bloody marvellous as Jawbone are playing to a hundred or so people?  It’s a question that applies to numerous other artists of a roots rock disposition of course, but still – these guys really should be enjoyed by a bigger audience.
Their self-titled debut album from last year laid out a heart-warmingly good collection of songs, and I’d have been delighted to turn up for this gig and have them give me an action replay of that.  Well, stupid me.  Because it turns out that live they’re even better – more
Marcus Bonfanti amuses Rex Horan with a solo
free, more rock’n’roll, and pure and simply entertaining.  That crowd of a hundred that I mentioned lapped it up.
They kick off with ‘Leave No Traces’, with gritty guitar from Marcus Bonfanti and spikes of keys from Paddy Milner, Bonfanti ripping out a gutsy solo, and bassist Rex Horan advancing to the apron of the stage to liven everyone up.  It’s a solid statement of intent, and over the rest of the night they live up to it, and more.
‘Get What You Deserve’ lays out more of their armoury, with a really full sound featuring sumptuous two and sometimes three part harmonies, swirls of organ from Milner, and Aussie Horan serving up loose-limbed bass over Evan Jenkins’ swinging drums.
Milner doesn’t restrict himself to organ either, and in fact is even more ear-catching on piano, as on his rippling, classically styled intro to the dramatic ‘Bet On Yesterday’, which swells to a massive but subtle crescendo in the middle with Jenkins utilising timpani mallets on drums, before ending with a surprising and quite wonderful singalong, with both Bonfanti and Horan offstage, encouraging the crowd with woodblock accompaniment.
They pay homage to The Band, after one of whose songs they’re named, with a crackling rendition of ‘Rag Mama Rag’, featuring a sizzling, all action rock’n’roll solo from Bonfanti and wild piano from Milner, and it’s evident by this point that they’re not only tighter than a gnat’s behind, but they’re also enjoying it hugely, the smiles on their faces mirroring those in the audience.
The uncorked energy of some songs brings to mind The Beatles of, say, ‘Get Back’, in a way that wasn’t apparent from the album.  ‘Rolling On The Underground’ comes with crunching chords, witty lyrics name-checking London Tube stations, and a guitar-keys collision while Jenkins and Horan gets their syncopated groove on, while ‘Miss Feelgood’ is possibly the best of a clutch of new songs, a Faces-like pint of rock’n’roll which Rod the Mod would surely have been happy to grace in his heyday.  The former features an excellent bass break from Horan, and the latter a drum showcase from Jenkins, but neither is overlong, and throughout both the others keep rolling out the basic chords, so that the solos
Paddy Milner gets all deep and meaningful
still serve the song rather than offering an excuse to go to the bar.
But their sophistication continues to be evident too, on ‘Sit Around The Table’ for example, a song full of lyrical depth and musical feeling that opens with a piano only first verse and chorus before rousing itself, and with their attention to detail apparent even in the brief piano-guitar interplay of its outro.  Their sense of dynamics is clear too, on the likes of ‘The City’, another excellent new song with a mid-period Mop Top feel, which drops off to a delicate bridge before Milner’s revved up piano solo.
As they get ready to close Horan steps forward to deliver a yarn about spider farming in Australia, which turns out to be a bonkers pitch for the merch on sale later, before they finish with the thoughtful ‘Two Billion Heartbeats’, all supple groove and luscious harmonies, with another brilliant middle eight.
They’re back with more after a minute of course, and daringly offer the swoonsome ‘The Years Used To Mean So Much’ as a first encore, before bringing it home with the piano-pounding, slide guitar-stinging, dance-inducing ‘Big Old Smoke’ – and next thing they’re all in the audience, grabbing a tuba, side drum, trumpet and accordion to lead another mad singalong.
Honestly, what more could you ask for?  Great songs, great arrangements, intelligent lyrics, fabulous vocal harmonies, wonderful playing, and an easy rapport between themselves and with the audience – this, my friends, is what live music is all about.  

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