Star rating – 9/10
Don’t you just love those evenings when you take a bit of a punt on a gig and hope it will be good and it turns out to be a totally fantastic and uplifting experience? Well Justin Townes Earle’s gig at the Deaf Institute turns out to be just one of those special nights. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand from the off – seemingly gazing into everyone’s eyes in an intense but very charming way. It must be a hell of a hard thing to live up to, being the country legend Steve Earle’s son, but Justin TE manages to transcend this and produce his own very special brand of country magic.
He is a born entertainer, and his honesty, openness, and humour about his own particular demons, namely drink and drugs was particularly refreshing. He entertained the packed audience in between each song with a ‘Now Ladies and Gentlemen...’ opening, then an amusing anecdote that made his songs truly come to life. He revealed how his favourite two things are young ladies and fried chicken; how he ended one love affair, admittedly with a slight overlap, then went straight onto his next romantic disaster; (Someday I’ll be Forgiven for This) and how his mother was a formidable character who had managed to detach his father’s retina on one occasion (Mama’s Eyes). He is a total crowd pleaser.
But amusing anecdotes aside, it was his music that blew me away. With lots of numbers from his latest fabulous CD ‘Harlem River Blues’, like the title song itself; ‘Christchurch Woman’ and ‘Wanderin’’, which he managed to make sound just as fantastic on his own up there on stage as it does with his full backing band on record. Like all true country artists, JTE is a tortured soul, with a chequered past – bad for someone personally, but an absolute prerequisite for a successful country career. He also treated us to pearls from his first CD ‘Midnight at the Movies’, which is equally impressive.
His voice is fantastic but his guitar playing is particularly impressive. Even to an untutored person such as me, I could tell his skills were something special – managing to make it sound as if there must of been more musicians hiding in the wings. But this was one hundred per cent Justin Townes Earle. It felt like it must have to watch the early Patsy Cline. He didn’t really want to leave the stage – and looked as if he had the energy to go on all night. He is really something special. You have been told.