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The Americans - Oran Mor - 28/01/17

"L.As The Americans roll into Glasgow as part of Celtic Connections."


Review by Graham McCusker
Posted on 2018-01-29 18:55:03
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On the twenty fifth anniversary of Celtic Connections, the festival, despite increasingly restricted budgets, has still managed to pull together a typically excellent lineup. Amongst its notoriously strong country and roots lineup is a show from Los Angeles natives The Americans. Having previously been the backing band for the likes of Nick Cave and Lucinda Williams, as well as being Reece Witherspoon’s wedding band, the five-piece come with an enormous amount of pedigree, and arrive in Glasgow on the back of the release of their full-length debut ‘I’ll Be Yours’.

The venue may be half-full as the band come onstage, but it doesn’t stop them launching into the opening ‘Nevada’ with the same vigour as if they were playing to a sold out arena. Their songs come across with the same blue collar sincerity as the likes of Springsteen, but unfortunately without any of the authenticity. The likes of ‘Last Chance’ and ‘Isabella’ are pleasant enough, but their cliched lyrics (“like it or not babe, I’m stuck on you”) weigh them down in territory that has been covered by far too many acts before them.

Just as the light beer Tom Petty act all gets a bit too much, from seemingly out of nowhere, a thundering version of ‘Long Way From Home’ kicks things up several gears, then ‘Hooky’ completely nails everything that had been absent from the rest of the set preceding it. The rugged vocals of Patrick Ferris are reminiscent of Robert Plant (on his later roots material, rather than the Led Zep screeches), and the natural reverb that emanates from his voice gives added weight to this bluesy rumble.

As the band really start to get into their stride, The Americans strip it back to their bare bones on the delicate ‘I’ll Be Yours’. Initially promising so much when the track begins with Ferris’ tender vocal accompanied with little more than a banjo, the rest of the band join and they disappear from then on out, yet again, into a mediocre abyss for the remainder of their set.

An amusing anecdote about a Swedish prison guard-cum-concert promoter is welcome relief at the beginning of the encore, before ending on the bland ‘Bronze Star’, after being demanded by the more eager members of this Glasgow crowd.

The Americans put in a polished performance that never really ventures anywhere further than the middle of the road. The five-piece are all accomplished musicians, and it is easy to see why the likes of the legendary T-Bone Burnett has taken them under his wing. However, when it comes to their own material, they are severely lacking in imagination.

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