Gig Review by Andrew Lindsay with Photography by John Bentley

Jonathan Wilson is a forty-something Los Angeles based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. He’s released four albums as a solo artist, most notably 2013’s Fanfare which featured a stellar supporting cast.

Jonathan Wilson at Leeds Brudenell Social Club 16 March 2018

Taking a break from guitar duties as the ‘resident hippy’ in Roger Waters’ touring band (due to resume in April 2018 for nearly 100 shows) Wilson is squeezing out his own sparks during a short North American/European tour to promote his new album Rare Birds.

Interest in his solo career is clearly growing as the Brudenell’s 400 capacity sold out show attests. All ages are in attendance at this wonderful working men’s club cum student union, including a serious contingent of long standing admirers.

Jonathan Wilson at Leeds Brudenell Social Club 16 March 2018

Wilson has expanded his live sound since he last played here in July 2012, fresh from his support slot on Tom Petty’s European tour. His four piece band works hard to bring a fullness to the sound…the keyboard player often doing five things at once (even strapping on a 12-string at one point). Bassist Dan Horne moonlights on mini keyboard while the second guitarist introduces an unidentifiable instrument disguised as a wooden log adorned with plastic flowers.  Wilson regularly switches between his battered homemade Telecaster and keyboards and provides the only vocals (some back-up harmonies would have much enhanced proceedings). There’s even a projector and video wall although these are unlikely to be on loan from Roger Waters.

Jonathan Wilson at Leeds Brudenell Social Club 16 March 2018

Dispensing with the dreamy introduction featured on the studio version they kick off with the new album opener, ‘Trafalgar Square’, with its lyrical nod to Sgt Pepper. It is muscular, faintly ominous and a significant departure from Fanfare which had us floating down Pacific Ocean Highway on a bed of acoustic guitars and harmonies. Album versions are springboards for new interpretations. ‘Miriam Montague’ is utterly bonkers and showcases what a wonderful guitarist Wilson is. Close your eyes and you’re witnessing Neil Young/Crazy Horse’s Alchemy tour.

‘There’s A Light’ provides contrast. This is gorgeous, poppy and positive with some wonderful slide guitar playing. ‘Loving You’ (“it was a song I wrote from a feeling or inflection of a word I heard John Lennon emote in one of his songs”) continues the creamy hypnotic groove designed, in Wilson’s words, “to make the listener float away on a sonic gondola”. The much requested ‘Desert Raven’ follows and develops the mood with its pretty guitar riff.

Jonathan Wilson at Leeds Brudenell Social Club 16 March 2018

After ’49 Hairflips’ signals that it is time to ‘party with this dark dystopian ballad’ the band pile into the sprawling ‘Valley of the Silver Moon’. This mutates into a ten minute soaring psychedelic wig out that would have effortlessly blown the minds of anyone freaking out in the Fillmore West fifty years ago.

Jonathan returns alone with just an acoustic guitar for the first of four encores: ‘Gentle Spirit’. The warmth of his voice and the clarity of diction contrasts with the main part of the set where the lyrical subtleties were lost in the mix. The rest of the band join midway through the next number and they close the two hour show with the mighty ‘Moses Pain’ featuring some heartbreaking slide runs.

Jonathan Wilson at Leeds Brudenell Social Club 16 March 2018

At one point during the evening Wilson notices a wall poster advertising a friend’s (Father John Misty) upcoming gig at Halifax’s stunning Piece Hall. “I really want to go to that”, he muses ruefully, “but will probably be in St Petersburg or somewhere” [Madrid actually]. Maybe he should go and ditch the guitar for hire. The day is fast approaching when Jonathan Wilson is a major act in his own right.

Setlist: Trafalgar Square; Me; Over the Midnight; Dear Friend; Miriam Montague; There’s A Light; Sunset Blvd; Loving You; Desert Raven; Living with Myself; Rare Birds; 49 Hairflips; Valley of the Silver Moon; Gentle Spirit; Can We Really Party Today; Ballad of the Pines; Moses Pain.

Jonathan Wilson at Leeds Brudenell Social Club 16 March 2018

One Response to “Jonathan Wilson at The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, UK – 16th March 2018”

  1. mark tempest Says:

    I was present at this gig and enjoyed every single minute.I think the shots are amazing and wondered if there was anyway of purchasing a print of 1 or more of the pics.The review i thought was fair and accurate apart from 1 exception.The last time he played at the Brudenell was promoting the Fanfare album which was around november 2013.

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