Star rating - 8/10
Last time I saw the Cowboy Junkies perform was back in November 2010 in the wonderful setting of Gorton Monastery. Beautiful and inspirational building though it certainly is, it wasn't the best venue for a concert and caused much craning of necks from the audience and moaning from the singer Margo Timmins about the sound quality. And on this bitter January night I was glad to be in more modern, warmer surroundings to be sure.
The Canadian veterans employed an unusual, and possibly a tad brave, format for the gig, with two sets from them and no support. The first set was made up entirely of tracks from their Nomad Series set of four different CDs produced over an 18 month period. That's quite an output, which they seemed to be strangely apologetic about playing. Timmins pleasantly invited the audience to text their Mums or catch up on emails if they didn't like it. Which was odd as most of it was great.
I liked the ballads rather than the self indulgent rockier numbers best, no surprise there - my tastes don't change. Damaged from the Start was lovely (although in parts strangely reminiscent of Rod Stewart's I Don't Want To Talk About It - weird). It is from the fourth CD in the series The Wilderness, which is gentler and more melodic than some of the others, and apparently their Mum's favourite - obviously a woman of good taste. The second CD Demons is made up of songs by their dear departed friend Vic Chestnut, and See You Around was a beautifully played example.
After a short break the Junkies were back for a second crowd pleasing set. And they took this very seriously, inviting fans to e mail suggestions beforehand via their website, and performing them regardless of how old and seldom played they are. I really admire Timmins for reading unashamedly from a lyric for a song she doesn't remember the words to. But then with her beautiful voice and years of fabulous recordings of songs written by her super talented brother Mike, she has nothing to prove. The Cowboy Junkies are justifiably comfortable in their skins with such a distinguished back catalogue.
And yes they played lots of favourite tracks like Sweet Jane; the sublimely brilliant Cause Cheap is How I Feel - its bittersweet lyrics summing up the thousand losers in us all; and my personal favourite, Misguided Angel, which sounded as wonderful as ever. For that I will even forgive her the Robin Van Persie adulation on behalf of her 9 year old son (Manchester United posters on a Canadian boy's bedroom wall - never!)
And by the way, I love discovering different local venues, and the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale is great - easy to get to, perfect views of the stage from all seats, nice bar, safe and cheap parking. Get yourself down there.