Anticipation and expectation of a live performance is what gives me general pre gig giddiness or excitement. Sometimes the act lives up to all of it, sometimes they surpass it, sometimes they miss the mark completely. That is the crap shoot of live music as art and one of the reasons, besides dancing, that keeps me going back to drink from the well over and over.
Coming in from Los Angeles, via New Zealand, Jonathan Wilson took advantage of a night off from singing and playing with Roger Waters to perform some of his compositions. “Gentle Spirit” and “Can We Really Party Today?” were done simply on vocals and acoustic guitar. “Ballad of the Pines” had Wilson doing some sweet fingerpicking and most of the audience were appreciative. Unfortunately, there were quite a number of ‘talkers’ at this gig. It being a small venue, it was annoying and you wonder what drives them to rudeness.
There really was no stage height so the ability to see Jonathan and his band was limited to the people very close to him. That was a minor concern as well, I am there to hear the music, but it is a beautiful thing to watch a band interact. Joining him were Bo Koster (My Morning Jacket) on keyboards, Joey Waronker on drums, and Gus Seyffert on guitar. If there was anyone else up there, I could not see them!
All of his band members tonight are from the Roger Waters touring band and they played effortlessly with very few missteps throughout the set. Waters attended but he did not play at all this evening. Actually, Wilson had to close the show down early due to noise/curfew issues at the venue. So no flying pigs or Floyd covers tonight, which is a bit of a shame. There were even rumours of Father John Misty in town to make an appearance, but word had it he was eating some fungi looking for an eclipse.
Desert Raven was a highlight with duelling chiming guitars and some of the new songs rolled out, Trafalgar Square being one of them, should make fans look forward to the Rare Birds release upcoming in March.
Wilson may not hear it himself that he is channelling the Laurel Canyon sound, as he has stated in his online bio, but there are many similarities. Seeing him in 2013, he blended Garcia/Young styled guitar solos with psychedelic imagery and 2018 did not seem much different with the acoustic start and electric finish. Someone I know compared him to the group America, but with better guitars. There is some credence to that here and there, but performing live he displays that his music has a bit more depth and highlights then “Horse With No Name”.
Wilson is a rare bird in this part of the world. Let us hope he spreads his wings and returns sometime soon with a band and a venue that lets him stretch out some of these songs as they should be played.
“Rare Birds” is out on Bella Union on the 2nd of March.
Check out “Loving You” here: