John Moreland – St George’s, Bristol

Sunday 5th August, 2018

The last gig of the River Town festival, Bristol’s celebration of Americana music held annually by Colston Hall. Ticket purchased on the strength of the write up in the St George’s programme, which promised eloquence and emotional rawness.

St George’s has proved to be an excellent alternative venue for the River Town gigs I’ve seen, the acoustics are brilliant and the style of music just seems to fit the environment somehow.

Support came from John Calvin Abney, who very patently waited onstage for the venue lights to come down. He has a natural charm and likeability, can play a mean blues country guitar and has the sort of voice that demands your attention. He was superb. One of the best support acts I’ve seen in fact.

I went to buy his CD in the interval and it had already sold out, that and the rapturous applause from the rest of the crowd told me I wasn’t alone in liking him.

Turns out John Calvin Abney plays with John Moreland which could well get very confusing I’d imagine. John and John came out to a very warm welcome (although I could have done without the blokes behind me talking, or the drunk bloke who kept shouting out who was sat nearby – keep it to yourselves next time please boys).

The promised brilliant lyrics were there, as was the raw emotion. Lost love, regrets, searching for meaning, hope and home in turbulent times, all there. Sung with the sort of gravel and grit that can only come from lived experience. From the soul. From deep within. The places we usually keep hidden and don’t reveal. There is an honesty to this music, the sort that makes you feel that JM couldn’t not make music if he tried. It’s just in his blood, his heart and his soul and he spills them all out on stage for us.

I was (and am) very tired and hot (will this interminable summer ever end?) going into this gig and I said to myself “he’d better be worth it.” Well he was. Both John’s were.

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