Saturday, 18 March 2017

Gig Review: Dave Hause and The Mermaid at The Garage 16/3/17 (by Emma Prew)

Bury Me In Philly, the third album from Dave Hause, is on track to be in my top ten albums of 2017 (I know, I know, it’s only March). And I’m glad I loved the album so much as we bought tickets to see Mr Hause at some point last year – it seems a long time ago now. Given that I hadn’t seen the man play for something like 5 years and never at his own headline show either (I saw him on The Revival Tour and as a support act twice), I was really quite excited. It would also be my first time seeing him – and his first time in the UK – with a full band. Added excitement.

There was a slight adjustment to the advertised bill for the tour as a member of one of the bands, Dead Heavens, was involved in a freak accident with a folding chair (apparently it sliced the tip of his finger off – ouch!). This meant that they, understandably, weren’t able to continue the UK leg of the European tour. Thankfully different musicians around the country were able to step in which is exactly what Sam Russo did on Thursday.

But first up was a different man-with-guitar, Robyn G Shiels from Northern Ireland. Neither myself or Colin had heard of him before so we didn’t really know what to expect, aside from assuming he probably played some form of folk music. We soon found out that Robyn plays sad-sounding folk-come-alt country songs that have a sound more akin to Nashville than Northern Ireland. I was very impressed by the melodic finger-picked guitar parts and he certainly kept me captivated.

Everyone’s favourite foot-stamping acoustic guitar wielding man from Suffolk, Sam Russo, was next up. Except he wouldn’t be stomping his feet as he mentioned early on in his set that he had a broken foot. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Mr Russo play live – it’s definitely been several times a year for the past few years though – but I never get bored of watching him play. The man has such great charisma on stage and has an amazing storytelling ability both within his songs and his general on stage talk in between songs. Having seen him play so many times, a Sam Russo show does seem a little bit like a greatest hits set with songs like Small Town Shoes, Runaways, Dry Shampoo and Holding On all making an appearance – as well as Sometimes, obviously – but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. It was a little odd not seeing Sam bounding about the stage and stomping his feet but the music was excellent.

I don’t think The Garage was officially sold out but it was certainly starting to get pretty packed by the time Sam Russo finished his set and we all waiting eagerly for the return of Dave Hause – and the debut of The Mermaid. Looking around us, Colin was trying to work out how many of the crowd members would actually know The Loved Ones, Dave’s old band prior to his solo work. I figured a fair amount would but I also know that he must have gained a lot of fans from his tours over here as part of The Revival Tour (one of the greatest musical experiences I’ve ever seen) and as main support for The Gaslight Anthem some years ago.

With The Mermaid on board, the setting up and tuning of various instruments took a tad longer than it would have done had it been a solo Dave Hause show but I was definitely excited to hear the full band sound… and it was certainly worth the wait. In true rock ’n’ roll style, The Mermaid took to the stage before Dave and the crowd exploded when he stepped foot on the stage. He has obviously been greatly missed by UK fans. From the outset Dave was the perfect frontman – I’ve always enjoyed his solo performances but I truly think that Dave was born to play with a full band. Opening with The Flinch from Bury Me In Philly, Dave and the band were on top form. I enjoyed hearing the new songs live – With You and Bury Me In Philly in particular – but I also enjoyed hearing older tracks from first album, Resolutions, and second album, Devour, with the full band sound such as Autism Vaccine Blues, Father’s Son and Resolutions. At one point Dave even slipped in a bit of Hot Water Music’s Trusty Chords into the set – a nod towards the mighty Chuck Ragan. I knew I’d enjoy this show but I wasn’t prepared for just how much – I loved it, the rest of the crowd loved it and Dave and The Mermaid were clearly loving it too.

The band could have easily finished with We Could Be Kings but a headline show at The Garage does typically call for an encore, so an encore we got. Before the gig, Colin asked if I thought Dave would play a Loved Ones song. I thought probably not but you never know with these sorts of shows. If ever there was a time in the set for a cover of his old band’s song then it was the start of the encore with just himself and his guitar. Introducing the song Jane, Dave said that he was never going to play the song again – at least not in this acoustic form (ie. he might play it with The Loved Ones again one day!). It was wonderful. As was the next song, a Revival Tour style rendition of Prague (Revive Me) featuring multi-instrumentalist Kayleigh on the mandolin. C’Mon Kid was then the set closer – it had to be really – and the crowd indulged in one last massive singalong.

I’d been waiting a long while to see Dave Hause live again and it was 100% worth the wait. The addition of The Mermaid was an excellent choice and the songs, both new and old, really benefitted from the full band sound – plus it allowed Dave to fully embrace being a frontman.

Probably my favourite gig of the year so far. Bravo Dave Hause and The Mermaid.

This review was written by Emma Prew.