Star rating - 9/10
After a great but relatively downbeat gig from Justin Townes Earle at the Academy in Manchester in June, at least by his very high standards, he was back on top form last night in Leeds. And again wonderfully supported by Manchester's adopted Canadian angel Gabriel Minnikin.
I don't usually regret much in life, (debatable trait I know...) but one of the hazards of giving ratings for cultural events is that I often change my mind about them in the fullness of time. When I was first introduced to the wonderful showmanship and raw talent that JTE clearly represents back in January 2011 at the Deaf Institute, he totally blew me away, but I only gave him a 9/10. I am now going to admit that I made a mistake (again not something I do readily), and say that that particular night was gig perfection in every way. There's something about having no expectations and then being delighted to the core of your inner being that is a complete one off darned miracle.
Well at the delightful Brudenell Social Club (think Wheel Tappers and Shunters without the old men nursing pints and smoking pipes) that Justin was almost back. He delighted the appreciative but quiet crowd to some of his beautiful heartfelt songs from his growing back catalogue. He was flying solo this time but the way he plays his guitar makes you think there is more than one musician on stage. His recent albums have been very much influenced by place - and from Harlem River Blues he played great tracks such as One More Night in Brooklyn, Rogers Park, and Christchurch Woman. And obviously the crowd pleasing foot stomping title track went down a storm.
His latest release, Nothing's Gonna Change the Way you Feel About Me Now, has much more of a southern soul sound, but don't worry there are all the country hallmarks of demons and heartaches aplenty included too so all is well. Particular favourites of mine from here that we were treated to were Maria and Memphis in the Rain. At his best JTE is a superstar, just a shame about the demons getting in the way sometimes - but hey - that's country for you.
And the wonderful and talented Gabriel Minnikin gave a great guitar based support set with some of my favourite tracks from his Parakeets with Parasols record. If you haven't heard him yet - listen to his husky velvet tones on the likes of Arkansas and Halifax Blues, and lose yourself in the Phil Spectoresque beautiful wall of sound he has created. You will thank me for it. He may thank you too... he's very polite like that.