Interesting to see that the cult of Nic Jones holds so much less sway north of the Border.
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This modest turnout for the hugely influential singer, songwriter and guitarist – whose recent return to performing, after a 30-year hiatus following a near-fatal car-crash, has drawn sellout crowds in England – can’t have been helped by a wet Monday night, or the big Michael Marra tribute happening concurrently.
There was certainly no shortage of love in the room, as Jones appeared onstage almost like a reverse Cheshire cat, his beaming ear-to-ear grin seemingly visible first, accompanied by his guitarist son Joseph and pianist/accordionist Brenda Gilhooley. Throughout a set-list displaying all the pioneering diversity of his classic material, including traditional, contemporary and original work, comparisons with the original, definitive versions were essentially irrelevant, except as regards the unmistakable paternal echoes in Jones jnr’s freehanded fluency on guitar.
The freshly conversational directness of Jones’ own approach to the songs – also including a few new surprises like Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees, and a self-penned call for in-the-moment awareness, Now – lent the performance an often touching warmth and immediacy, matched if not exceeded by that of the audience’s response.
Jones’ continuing stylistic legacy was also brilliantly apparent, together with masterly blues, slide and old-time touches, in the superb guitar work of opening act John Smith, beautifully interwoven with his hoarse-edged yet lambent vocals and heartwrung, introspective lyrics. Softly spoken and even more softly sung, he nonetheless cast a powerfully compelling spell.