Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Josh Rouse at Islington Assembly Hall, London - 22/05/13

Two months after his surprise intimate gig at The Lock Tavern in Camden, Josh Rouse returned to London last Wednesday to perform at the Islington Assembly Hall, in support of his most recent album, The Happiness Waltz. Josh took to the stage with a full band to play to a sold-out crowd of 700 fans, a very different atmosphere to The Lock Tavern gig, in which he played a solo acoustic set in a cosy upstairs room in a pub.

Since I purchased the tickets to the gig through PledgeMusic, my friend Steve and I got the opportunity to attend a meet and greet with Josh and watch him and his band soundcheck in preparation for the evening's performance. The soundcheck was like a concert in itself, with Josh playing eight tracks, all of which got us excited for the night ahead, though it was hearing the first verse and chorus of 'It Looks Like Love' that really got my feet tapping, and left me hoping that the song would be included in the evening's setlist. I always enjoy watching soundchecks, as they allow the lucky few who are in attendance, an insight into what goes into prepping for a performance. This one was no exception, as we were able to watch Josh and his band in the setting-up process, from the warming up of instruments to an actual preview of the possible setlist - all in all, a fascinating experience.

The actual gig began at around 9:15pm, with Josh and his band starting the set with early classic 'Dressed Up Like Nebraska', a bold choice for a set opener, but one that successfully got the crowd invested in the music. This was followed by 'This Movie Is Way Too Long' and 'It's Good To Have You', two tracks that eased the set into the more recent sounds of The Happiness Waltz. These new songs sounded fantastic with a live band. Other key moments of the newer material included 'A Lot Like Magic' and 'The Ocean', the latter of which featured hauntingly beautiful vocal harmonies that brought the song to life.

Though this show was naturally centred around The Happiness Waltz, Josh did play a good variety of songs from previous albums, most notably 1972 and Nashville, though it was also great to hear so much material coming from Subtitulo. 'It Looks Like Love' was a particular highlight - after hearing a teaser of the track in the soundcheck, I was thrilled to hear it live in its entirety, especially as it had never been played at any of the previous Rouse gigs I had attended. Another standout song was 'Domesticated Lovers' - from 2007's Country Mouse, City House - which featured a guitar solo that was almost as smooth and enticing as Rouse's vocals. However, my favourite moment of the night came in the form of the four-track encore, which featured some of my most loved Rouse tracks. 'Sad Eyes' in particular was a welcome surprise, as during the meet and great earlier in the day, Josh had informed me that it wouldn't be included in the set. Much to my delight, he must have had a change of heart.

Overall, this has been my favourite Rouse gig to date. His band showed great musicianship, while delivering a wonderfully diverse setlist (though there were certain tracks that I felt could have benefited from a keys player, particularly on the material played from 1972 and Subtitulo). Rouse is a gifted musician whose songs translate just as effectively live, as on record, regardless of whether he is playing tiny pubs, or in the case of this gig, sold-out concert halls.

'Dressed Up Like Nebraska'
'This Movie Is Way Too Long'
'It's Good To Have You'
'Domesticated Lovers'
'I Will Live On Islands'
'A Lot Like Magic'
'Julie (Come Out Of The Rain)'
'Quiet Town'
'Western Isles'
'My Love Has Gone'
'The Ocean'
'It's The Nighttime'
'Love Vibration'
'Simple Pleasure'
'It Looks Like Love'

'Sad Eyes'
'Comeback (Light Therapy)'
'Winter In The Hamptons'

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