Jim White is back on tour to promote his current album the very cool Waffles, Triangles & Jesus that is out now on Loose Music. This is the second time I’ve been to hear Jim play the last time was at St Pancras Old Church and like at that gig his support act are also his backing band for the tour. This time rather than the multi-instrumentalist Paul Fonfara this time it’s the Trio Cicada Rhythm from Georgia.
Cicada Rhythm open with America’s Open Road that’s a cool paean to the wonders of driving across America that allows the bands double bass playing lead singer Andrea DeMarcus to start to bewitch us as her vocals are at their deeper end a lot like Madeleine Peyroux and sounded like she should be singing smokey Jazz rather than some cool country folk.
The Farmer allowed Guitarist and singer Dave Kirslis to take the lead vocals and his style was nowhere near as enchanting as his partners. But it was a decent song about being a farmer in back woods America. You Need To Listen I think was the first song that Andrea bowed her bass rather than plucking it and it really added a lot of texture to the music.
Shake Up had plenty of interplay between the Bass and guitar even if I would have liked them to have more of a Jazzy sound to go with the very cool vocals it still worked really well. They were very happy to be on the band’s first UK tour and told us about it between songs. Shadows Before You had some wonderful bass parts on it that really showed Andrea’s talent off and she also thanked Texas Joe for lending her the Bass for the tour as it was too expensive to bring her own one over.
Dirty Hound was dedicated to the bands dog which made it into a love letter for said dog rather than an old time country blues about a partner who constantly strays that the title might imply, either way it was one of the highlights of the set and a song they seemed to have a lot of fun with.
They then played what in these paranoid times seemed like a song almost reflecting the news in Straight Scared a song about panicking and worrying too much that had some more great bass playing on it. Before they closed with Do Not Destroy a song about not building all over the countryside and leaving beautiful views to be just that as Andrea had one more solo on her bass to leave most of us wanting more.
After the break Jim White came on wearing a Mazda baseball cap and fur lined denim shirt that made him seem like the good ole country boy he kind of is and yet at the same time isn’t. He was of course joined by Cicada Rhythm as his backing band. He opened with the most upbeat song on his new album Playing Guitars that was a great happy and then sad look at the fact that everywhere Jim looks people are playing guitars and damn when he looks in a mirror and so is he! It has a good wink in the eye to it and a great start to the set.
Jim then apologises that from now on it will be all depressing songs like Plywood Superman a wonderfully dark song about the jarring nature of seeing a Plywood superhero in the supermarket that the band play in a alt-western style rather than alt-country.
Reason To Cry has a great sing along feel to it as all of the band sing backing harmonies as Jim acknowledges that telling someone sad to cheer up is often a stupid thing to do as they may well have a very good reason to be bawling their eyes out and without asking more questions how would you know, a great song and a real highlight for me.
Jim spends a good amount of time telling stories about his mental issues and David Byrne discovering him between songs that helped to add poignancy to Drift Away the opening song on the new album. Corvair is a great country pop song about how the car that’s been sitting rotting in his yard for over 50 years is now more of a plant pot than a car.
Far Beyond The Spoken Word is a deliciously dark look at love going wrong amongst much mental trauma and tribulations with a partner in need of saving as He had once been. He stayed in the same dark realm for Ghost Town Of My Brain a sing title that alone is worrying add the lyrics and music and it paints a very dark picture that the mournful bass just worked perfectly for.
I think it was before Silver Threads that Jim shed his denim shirt and told us that like normal it would be auctioned off at the merch table after the show with all proceeds to http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/ and that he had raised over £400 so far this tour for a very worthy cause.
He then told us about how he hooked up with Johnny Dowd for the album they did together as Hellwood and also just how quickly Johnny re-wrote Jim’s lyrics for A Man Loves His Wife a super dark and twisted tale that sounds like it was being played on a back porch in the middle of nowhere rather than in good old Dingwalls the venue he played the first time he played here.
They then did a rather beautiful version of Earnest T Bass At Last Finds The Woman Of His Dreams from the new album that was lush and in places sounded rather lusty as the tale in the song unfolded for us. Wonders Never Cease kept things nice and down beat yet strangely uplifting at the same time a neat trick.
Static OnThe Radio was as close as Jim gets to having a sing along hit and almost everyone in Dingwalls happily sang along to it. Jailbird is all about being stuck in the prison of your mind and how his mental issues have various effects on him a stark and slightly scary song.
They close with Here I Am that allows the band to let rip a little bit and Jim to introduce and thank everyone.
Of course the place erupts in cheers to ensure an encore which as Jim never left the stage but the rest of the band did was always going to be a solo spot for the rather stark House Of The Unknown that really did only leave room for the real tearjerker that Jim wrote for his daughter during the years when he was estranged from her and has only recently plucked up the courage to sing it to her and start playing it live and his Sweet Bird Of Mystery has him with tears streaming down his face by the end of it, and he wasn’t the only one. It was a moving way to end a very good set.
Live Review by Simon Phillips of Jim White and Cicada Rhythm Live at Dingwalls Camden on 26th November 2017 Photography by Simon Jay Price at St Mary’s Church, Guildford on 25th November 2017.
Nils van der Linden met Jim White for an interview and that will follow soon.