American Music Club, Islington Academy, London
Soaring from the wreckage
Thursday 21 October 2004
In the first line of the California quintet's opening number, their singer asked "Will this night fulfil all promises''. Loyal fans of the band would have pondered the same question, and their wishes were granted.
Shy, and prone to self-destructive boozing, singer/songwriter Mark Eitzel has been an awkward frontman, threatening either destructive rages or awkward rambling. This time, though, he let the songs do the talking as he and his band tore through a crowd-pleasing set. Not that Eitzel's performance was entirely comfortable. He contorted his body over and around the mike stand as he strove to reach the most searing notes that captured palpable pain and despair.
At least this reunion was nothing to do with topping up pension plans. American Music Club had fizzled out 10 years ago, having failed to follow up on the promise of their 1991 classic Everclear. By combining beautiful songwriting with roots influences and punk sensibilities they had laid the template for what became alt.country. During the band's absence, the likes of Calexico and Lambchop paid homage on an album of covers of the band's songs.
Another fan was REM's Peter Buck, who produced some of Eitzel's ensuing solo output, but the writer's work lacked the bite of an AMC record. Earlier this year, new album Love Songs For Patriots was deemed a worthy return. Eitzel was as sharp as ever, with most of his old band around to provide an eclectic, sympathetic backing. Yet it was a somewhat dour record, as if the band were still gingerly stepping around each other.
At this culmination of a European tour, though, the new songs came emphatically alive, thanks to a stellar all-round performance. While Tim Mooney beat out precise military tattoos, bassist Dan Pearson delivered urgent bass pulses, with thrilling distortion on the album's opener 'Ladies And Gentlemen'. Guitarist Vudi, a gangly, laconic figure in a fedora, caressed his guitar with the insouciance of a blues veteran for both country twangs and vicious post-punk spikes.
While the current album's title suggested concern with America's place in the world, most of the paranoia and disenfranchisement in Eitzel's words only served to deepen the darkness around his two main concerns: relationships on the verge of collapse and the drinking that ensued once they have ended, usually in bars you would never choose to go in.
So new numbers sat comfortably with buffed-up oldies, from the yearning opening number, "Why Won't You Stay?", to any of the dust-blown drinking songs such as "Outside a Bar".
As Friday's gig progressed, Eitzel loosened up. He introduced the romantic "Only Love Can Save You" in defiant fashion: "This is a cliché, but it's my life". Long-winded anecdotes, though, were cut short by his bandmates. We may never know what Van Morrison was doing in London's rock'n'roll haven, the Columbia Hotel, with a bottle of whisky, but at least Eitzel proved he could provide better company.
Arts & Ents blogs
Cheryl Cole confirms X Factor return by throttling Simon Cowell on Instagram
Dennis Hopper's lost sixties photo album found
What are the best first lines in fiction?
Russell Crowe's Noah banned in three Arab countries before worldwide premiere
Call The Midwife: Jessica Raine leaves in series three finale
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
- 1 Pakistan vs Paul Smith: Sandal-wearers bemused by famed British designer's attempts to sell traditional Peshawari chappal-style shoes for the distinctly untraditional sum of £300
- 2 Family forced to flee home after discovering 'terrifying' nest of spiders in bananas
- 3 Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
- 4 Russell Crowe's Noah banned in three Arab countries before worldwide premiere
- 5 Bob Crow death: 'Admired by his members, feared by employers' - Tributes pour in for RMT union leader and 'working class hero' Bob Crow