Thursday, 4 December 2014

Live in 2014: Simone Felice at The Louisiana, Bristol & The Chattery, Swansea on December 2/3 2014

Ponder this? If the performer of your favourite album of the year offered to play his greatest songs in your own home, just for you, how would you feel?

Well, this is how I felt when I got the chance to see Simone Felice twice in two days (possible because both gigs were within my travelling distance). 
Both venues were so intimate, it actually felt like he was singing just for me. Of course he wasn't, both The Louisiana and The Chattery were packed and the atmospheres were fantastic.

It was my first time to The Louisiana Bristol, which is a short walk from The Thekla (if you know where that is). The hall is a small space above the pub which can hold an audience of about 100 standing people.

Simone Felice's album Strangers is my album of 2014.

So, I could not wait to see Simone perform the songs in a live context.

But first let's talk about Dan Whitehouse. Dan has been the support artist on the whole of this tour and he is the best support artist I have seen all year.
He came on, armed with just his acoustic guitar and won over the crowd with songs from his newly released album Raw States. The album, produced by Danny & The Champions Danny Wilson & Chris Clarke is an excellent listen and the songs transfer really well in a purely acoustic context. I urge you to check out the album and to catch Dan live if possible.

Following Dan's set, Simone took to the stage with the talented Anna Mitchell on Harmonium, Piano & Percussion.

Now, Simone's albums are beautiful and often delicate things. But nothing prepares you for the Simone Felice who performs live.

The intensity of the performance, especially at The Louisiana is staggering. Simone is just mesmerizing. You cannot take your eyes off him.
The way he attacks his acoustic guitar and physically drags the words from his psyche remind me of a firebrand preacher. He is so dynamic in his presentation. Ranging from silent whispers to an almost religious urgency. He never shouts or screams but you can feel the latent power in his voice.

Right from the opening song, Charade, I was transfixed.

In both performances, Simone picks the best from throughout his career. His work with his brothers band, The Felice Brothers is covered by Radio Song and Don't Wake The Scarecrow.

His work with his last band, The Duke & The King includes the song, If You Ever Get Famous and the uptempo The Morning I Get To Hell.

Simone's eponymous solo debut is represented by killer songs like simmering The New York Times, lovingly uptempo You & I Belong and the brooding Hey Bobby Ray.

In The Chattery, Dan performs a spectacular version of Bruce Springsteen's early classic Growing Up to superb applause.

Dan Whitehouse, performing to Bob Dylan at The Chattery

I really wanted to hear how Simone performed the songs from Strangers and I was not disappointed as he played several throughout the sets.
The beautiful Bye Bye Palenville was a highlight with Anna providing some exquisite backing vocals. 

Simone had quite a few friends at The Chattery and I think this helped him to relax as his performance in Swansea seemed a more relaxed affair than in Bristol. It had a softer and more intimate vibe. But then all gigs in The Chattery are special.
I've stated before that I think The Chattery has a vibe similar to what being in Greenwich Village in New York back in the 60s must have been like. Regular musically astute audiences in a small and intimate setting. And with portraits of Bob Dylan on the walls, as both Simone and Dan commented, it's like you're being watched by greatness.

My favorite song of 2014 is the final song from Stranger called The Gallows. I was waiting for it and Simone, Anna & Dan delivered it in style.

The Gallows as performed at The Chattery.

In both shows, the main set ended with the spell binding Running Through My Head from Strangers with the obligatory audience singalong.
As The Chattery is a seated venue, Simone's performance gained a several minute standing ovation

The encore was a superb version of The Band's I Shall Be Released in which Dan is called back to the stage to sing with Simone and Anna. A truly heart stopping moment.

I've never seen anyone perform like Simone Felice - he's unique and unmissable. God bless him for it. And I can't wait to see him again.

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