Grant-Lee Phillips – Whelans – 1/05/15 – Live Review
The self proclaimed ‘Beyoncé of Americana’ came on stage at Whelans just before half nine. It was obvious from the stage set up that this was always going to be a solo gig, one man and his guitar, but the crowd seemed more than happy with this. He opened the set with Holy Irons from his new album, before Smoke & Sparks and Moccasin Creek. We were told he would start with the new before working his way back to the old.
Best known for his work with Grant Lee Buffalo, Phillips has actually released eight solo albums dating back to 2000. His latest album ‘The Narrow’ was released earlier this year to much critical praise without ever troubling the charts greatly, a fate that he must be well used to by this stage in his career. His regular appearance on the Gilmore Girls must have helped introduce him to a new generation of fans but unfortunately did not catapult him to mega-stardom!
The set continued with a good mix of the old and the new, with a number of Grant Lee Buffalo songs such as Mighty Joe Moon, The Hook, Happiness and Honey Don’t Think. As the end of the set approached, he mentioned the curfew and the impending ‘disco’ after his performance finished. This caused an impromptu short version of ‘Staying Alive’ by the Bee-Gees which was surprisingly good, including the high notes. He shares a birthday with Barry Gibb, a little known fact he shared with us!
We got to hear about the troubles of touring, including how many pairs of trousers to bring (3) and when he would have to change his strings. He seems very relaxed on stage and told stories of his various trips to Dublin, including a night in the Olympia where a member of the crowd jumped on stage and landed on the drum kit!
He never left the stage for an encore, but did raise his game with a couple of his best loved songs, with Fuzzy and My Shinning Hour. The final sons of the night focussed on the artist we’ve lost over the last few months. He picked an unusual song by Prince to cover, in the form of the The Cross off Sign of the Times. He said he liked the message behind it. Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie was a much more traditional choice and got a good reaction, with the crowd singing along. The set ended at twenty past eleven and there was a feeling he would play all night if allowed! It was a very enjoyable set from a man who seems to love what he does.
‘We all have our problems
Some big, some are small
Soon all of our problems
Will be taken by the Cross’ – The Cross – Prince
Support on the night came from Malojian, who has recently returned from recording an album with Steve Albini. He told of playing a Neil Young cover version on the back stairs in Whelans before being joined by Grant-Lee. Malojian is from Lurgan and grew up during the troubles in the 80s. One of his songs called Communion Girls told of his day dreams at Mass about paramilitaries entering the church and him fighting them off!