John Reilly And Friends, St Giles-in-the-Fields, London
He has an actor's confidence with funny, off the cuff chat, riffing on his discomfort with the music’s religious conservatism
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Friday 08 February 2013
“We’re not done with you yet,” booms the big man bounding up the aisle as support act Fionn Regan sings his last note.
John C. Reilly doesn’t only lose the “C” when not acting, but the crumpled intensity he has brought to even his comedy roles since making his name in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights (1997).
His sideline as a singer of the sort of old-time Americana T. Bone Burnett resurrected in the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack is plainly pure pleasure. It’s also a mission, shared with his friend Jack White, whose Third Man label has released singles by Reilly and tonight’s accomplices, Tom Brosseau and Lavender Diamond’s Becky Stark.
“The whole idea of this band is to keep old songs alive,” Reilly tells the unusually mature gig crowd drawn to the beautiful Soho church where William Blake worshipped.
In grey jacket, waistcoat and hat, Reilly has an old country singer’s semi-formal attire, and a strong, high croon to match. Brosseau and Stark, the former joining him on acoustic guitar, complete perfect harmonies. The songs mix 20 century country hits and more mysterious folk tunes with roots, Reilly acknowledges, winding back to the British Isles and as old as this church.
He has an actor’s confidence to hold us with funny, off the cuff chat, riffing on his discomfort with the music’s religious conservatism. The audience, too, laugh easily at the Damascene conversion on the way to the saloon in George Jones’s “Don’t Go”. Reilly does send up a prayer before a guitar solo, answered when he pulls it off. This personably comic tone leads us by the hand into old-time America’s wonders.
Ray Price’s “Heartaches by the Number” has country’s jet-black fatalism, Phil Ochs’s “There But for Fortune” a more hard-bitten sadness, from a more resistant tradition. The Carter Family’s “The Winding Stream”, taken by Stark and Brosseau while Reilly “wipes the flop-sweat from my brow”, is a waking dream quietly glorying in God’s nature, sung with the genre’s high lonesome sound.
There’s something pretty and peaceful in the entwined voices and acoustic guitar strums, the singers rising and sinking together on “Ain’t No Grave Can Hold My Body Down” (dedicated to Richard III), as the meditatively slow, soft sounds are carried on the church’s pure acoustics. The trio take a theatrical bow, humble mission accomplished.
Arts & Ents blogs
Owen Howells is a DJ/producer who grew up in Australia but was born in the UK. He came back to the U...
Fancy seeing a play about serial killers? How about inviting a funeral director into your home for a...
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refl...
Liam Gallagher slams Daft Punk: 'I could have written Get Lucky in an hour'
Rocky Horror star Tim Curry 'suffers major stroke'
Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
After 61 films, including The Hangover Part III, Heather Graham admits she still likes to boogie
- 1 What, let gays get married? We must be bonkers
- 2 Rocky Horror star Tim Curry 'suffers major stroke'
- 3 Exclusive: How MI5 blackmails British Muslims
- 4 Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
- 5 Exclusive: Woolwich killings suspect Michael Adebolajo was inspired by cleric banned from UK after urging followers to behead enemies of Islam
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.