In the presence of greatness – Stu goes down to Mr Kyps and sees a magical performance and promises not to use the word legend…
Garland Jeffreys has been there and done it, but to music loving members of the British public is often unknown. That as it may be; people missing the first show of his new tour at Mr Kyps missed a superb performance.
Usually when greeting US acts the UK reviewer has to apologise for the weather, but after being stuck on the tarmac for 3 hours due to the somewhat extreme stateside conditions, a wet and windy Mr Kyps may well have seemed positively balmy in comparison.
Garland Jeffreys enters the stage, not as a man who has appeared with all the very best musicians, nor as someone who has lived through the most momentous of American musical history, but in an almost understated way. He seems genuinely pleased to be on stage after a day spent rushing from airport to the Johnny Walker show and on to Mr Kyps. As the show progresses it's a demeanour that doesn't shift - throughout we see a man in love with his craft.
The guys launch the set with the foot-tapping, head-nodding anthem 'Coney Island winter', a song performed by Garland on The Late Show and a perfect intro to a set full of the sounds of a varied musical background.
Backed by the highly impressive 'Coney Island Playboys' the band manage to be both professionally tight whilst giving the air of a jam session with every one of them playing with a smile on their face. We moved through the rocky homage to movie stars, '35mm Dreams' and on to bluesy `Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me' and it's clear that trying to define Jeffreys' style is going to prove fruitless.
Whilst the attendance was somewhat below what the performance deserved, it was clear that those that did turn up were proper music fans as, unlike many a gig not one person was spotted checking their phones or idly chatting. Garland gave a superb show and his effort was rewarded with much love coming back from the crowd.
My highlight of the night had to be 'I may not be your kind' Closely followed by 'The Contortionist' but truth be told there wasn't a weak song in the set. Garland said that 'It's what I am' is one of those songs you wished you'd written, which was handy as he did write it and it again proved a moving and quality addition to the setlist.
Is it too cliched to say that his music is stacked full of meaning? Maybe, but as well as being highly addictive in a rocky bluesy kind of way, Jeffreys also imbues plenty of food for thought into each tune.
We get the songs yes, but we also get occasional riffs into spoken word with Garland giving us a truly moving insight into his life and loves.
The Coney Island boys (Tom Curiano on drums, Guitar Mark Bosch, bassist Brian Stanley and key man Charly Roth) were an excellent foil for the frontman, never overwhelming but still adding full measure to the sound.
The night came to a close but the room wouldn't let Jeffreys leave without an encore and we got the treat of '96 Tears' and 'Hail Hail rock n Roll' (try it on the right). Yet more evidence if needed of the variety of influences in GJs music.
Having seen a fair bit of negative press around promoters it's important to remember that for every bandit there is an army of music loving enthusiasts doing their best to ensure folks get access to great live music. Props goes to Mick Tarrant who worked long and hard and spent not a little amount of money to get Garland over to the UK. G&B thanks you.
Like a fine wine, the music of Garland Jeffreys is to be savoured and appreciated in an age of plastic, disposable pop.
Suffice it to say we enjoyed the night. Garland Jeffreys really is a legend. (oops).