A packed back room at The Greystones for a long sold out show was buzzing when support act Mike Hughes took to the stage. It made quite a contrast from having seen him a few days earlier in Sheffield Cathedral as part of Tramlines. Though whilst he played a similar hush fell over the crowd, and he received a well earned rapturous send off. A fine singer/songwriter.
Enter Justin Townes Earle, besuited and bespectacled with his sideman Rob Walbourne for what was, to my ears at least, an under par start. The slow numbers were slow, there were moments it felt his drawl was about to break into a snore. Though he seemingly had most of the crowd captivated, the energy and spark of his show at the Memorial Hall in January was missing. Spending his time almost anchored to his mic stand, as opposed to stomping around like he owned the whole City Hall, he stumbled through “Mama’s Eyes”, but things were soon brought to life.
Kicking off a solo interlude was a blistering version of Lightnin’ Hopkins “My Starter Won’t Start This Morning”. There was a new song from his next record to be recorded in October, and the night gradually got better from there.
There was a good cross section of material from all his albums, and after a duo of covers from The Replacements and Springsteen (“Racing In The Street” nearly brought the roof off) the crowd were eating out of the palm of his hand. Personally i felt a little underwhelmed. This was by no means a bad gig by the vast majority of artist’s standards. I just left wanting a little more, knowing he’s capable of just that little bit more.
For a man who readily admits to having little resistance when it comes to pressing his “fuck it button”, the bravado and openness about his demons felt a little uncomfortable, worryingly so, after recent events. There’s no doubting the talent here, i just hope it doesn’t burn out.