Live: Bill Callahan – St George’s Church, Brighton, UK (18 Aug, 2009).

With lyrics such as, “it’s time to put God away” on ‘Faith Void’, the final track from his excellent latest album Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle, a church was perhaps a questionable choice of venue to see Bill Callahan.

Even Callahan clearly struggled with the religious surroundings, forgetting he was in a place of God he slipped in an anecdote about the urinal at the venue.

“It’s a pleasure to be sharing the bathroom facilities with the crowd tonight,” he said. “I stood next to this one guy and I saw his willy. I hoped I’d never see him again, but he’s sitting right in the front row.”

Despite the apparent incongruity of the venue, it was in reality hugely fitting. Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle, which was showcased tonight, is one of the most intimate albums of the year and Callahan’s intense, laconic, if unassuming performance worked well among the pillars and pulpit.

Augmented by impeccable strings and a faultless rhythm section, Callahan’s signature baritone rumble lead us through the majority of Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle, with stellar versions of ‘Eid Ma Clack Shaw’, ‘Too Many Birds’ and ‘All Thoughts Are Prey to Some Beast,’ receiving particular ovation.

Happily, he was also willing to represent his fine back catalogue, both under his own name and as Smog, including a rendition of the classic ‘Cold Blooded Old Times,’ from 1999’s Knock Knock.

Disappointingly, a 10.30pm curfew restricted the band to just a single encore of one number. The audience, of largely die-hard fans were not bothered though, and they clearly left hugely satisfied to “put God away” for now, after seeing such a fine and beguiling set from their hero.


by Leon Cox, editor-in-chief of