Categorized | Live Reviews

CW Stoneking Live @ Koko 23/11/11

Posted on 27 November 2011 by Dorian

The Camden Koko is a near perfect venue to see CW Stoneking. The former Camden Palace was originally opened in 1900 and retains much of the fin de siècle glamour, but it now sits slightly anachronistically against the neon lights, smart bar and mobile phone camera wielding audience. In much the same way CW Stoneking’s music and persona seem like something frozen in an earlier time, in this case 1930s America.

The Dodge Brothers

The Dodge Brothers

In support on the night were The Dodge Brothers, a skiffle band that features film critic Mark Kermode amongst its members. The band plays an enjoyable full throttle set that doesn’t outstay its welcome. I’m no huge skiffle fan but I liked the set a lot and was impressed at what an accomplished bass player Kermode was, and not a bad vocalist either.

CW Stoneking

CW Stoneking

CW Stoneking takes to the stage in his traditional attire, all white with a red bow tie, and politely addresses the crowd before starting a set that may be one of the best I have seen all year. Drawn largely from his excellent Jungle Blues album his voice, and the brass heavy band, sound fantastic. His work could have fallen the wrong side of pastiche, but actually sounds almost timeless despite being so heavily drawn from a past that CW Stoneking seems to still inhabit.

One thing I wasn’t prepared for was how funny he would be, his storytelling making me laugh out loud (not something I often experience at concerts). Whether it be anecdotes about his time in New Orleans, or tales of when he was shipwrecked by a crew of scientist sailors off the coast of Africa the between song banter was witty and self-aware.

On all the songs the brass section packed a real punch and the pounding drums (the biggest bass drum I have ever seen) were the perfect backing for Stoneking’s soft picking and haunting vocals. When the rest of the band left the stage and Stoneking played a few songs solo you saw another side to the act, one that was solely focused on the voice and presence of the slightly odd, but very captivating Australian blues-man.

In the encore the band played ‘The Love Me or Die’, a particular popular song with the audience (and a real highlight from an excellent set). One woman asked me if she could stand in front of me during the performance to get a  better view of her favourite song. Even her weird ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ style dancing couldn’t distract me from a wonderful performance of an excellent song.

By Dorian Rogers

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