Like many who don’t listen to Radio 2, my path to Jack Savoretti has been a slightly obscure one. Last summer, wandering round the Wilderness Festival in the dark after putting the entire family to sleep under canvas, I heard what sounded like a great Eagles cover band. Ambling over I found some sweaty short bloke playing a fantastic fusion of poppy folk with some thinly veiled country influences in there.
With no idea who he was (and nobody else present did either, like me most of the audience had been drawn by the music) it took a bit of google-fu on a couple of lines of lyrics -“when the sun came up and the shit went down” – to find out who the Dickens this was.
From reading a few reviews of the album Before the Storm that Savoretti is currently touring, it becomes apparent that most of the uninitiated reviewers have variations on the theme of how have I never heard his music up to this point? It’s fair comment because unless you’re a Radio 2 aficionado, Savoretti hasn’t had tremendous exposure. If you’ve never heard of Savoretti but watch a lot of American telly, you may find yourself surprised to recognise a few tracks; he’s been featured on shows as diverse as One Tree Hill, Greys Anatomy and the Vampire Diaries but he has largely slipped under the radar.
Savoretti has said in interviews that he was a poetry nut from an early age, and this certainly comes across in his lyrics. They’re well thought out, evocative and quite clever in places. It’s probably this love of poetry that’s brought about the Simon & Garfunkel comparisons – we can all just about forgive what Paul Simon did to Carrie Fisher because he is a lyrical genius.
On tour, Savoretti is joined by the most cosmopolitan band you’re ever likely to see. A Croatian Michael Elphick look a like on double base, a Russian keyboard player, an Irish drummer and a Brazilian electric guitarist who gives a real Latino vibe to a lot of the tracks. It’s an eclectic mix but it works very well.
The Scala is a small, intimate venue, in the environs of Kings Cross in central London. This made it easy enough for the Radio 2 brigade to find and for the most part they seem to make up the more fanatical side of Savoretti’s following. This meant the crowd was exceptionally well behaved: one chap who elbowed his way to the front two minutes before the main act came on was moved on by a group of 40 something ladies and a gang of youngsters who were talking during the middle acoustic set were roundly shushed by almost everyone. It was a wonder that the crowd didn’t tidy up before they left. That’s not to say they didn’t enjoy themselves; they did but in a self aware and jolly proper
Savoretti’s music works exceptionally well live and the band hit the ground running with some popular favourites from his new album like Vagabond and Before the Storm. With the audience whipped up into a middle aged tizzy, Savoretti slowed things down by dispatching his band and performing a slower acoustic set, starting with Crazy Fool and ending with a strangely apt cover of Ring of Fire. Savoretti has a gritty big voice, that comes as a surprise from such a slight frame but it’s as at home with a bit of classic country and western as it is with some of his more rambunctious numbers. When the Dirty Romantics re-appeared (presumably they’d decided to watch Only Connect or something to pass the time; the crowd had probably Sky Plus’d it), the pace upped a notch from the opening session. Not Worthy which got the second full on part of the gig going was definitely a crowd favourite. It was followed by The Proposal, which pays homage to the Eagles’ Take it Easy. Savoretti said he was intentionally aiming for a 60’s Californian vibe, and it could pretty much slip on to any of the Eagles early 70’s albums. It got the crowd bouncing and singing along nicely.
Savoretti has an easy going stage manner, he is comfortably riffing with the audience and attune to its mood- from the odd quick chat with the drummer, it was obvious that the set list was altered on the fly on more than one occasion. The band was tight enough to take this in their stride and it kept the audience bouncing right up until the final encore.
12 quid wont get you an enormous amount in terms of live music any more but that’s how much it cost to get in to see Savoretti at the Scala. There are still 6 gigs left on the UK leg of his tour, if you’re quick you’re going to have a great night out.
Guest Review by Alex.
You can read more of Alex’s musings over at his Daddacool blog.