And so, it was to rapturous applause that Smith Westerns, one of America’s finest (and underrated) bands took to the stage of the 100 Club, London. A venue that gave birth to mainstream punk, a venue that has hosted some of the world’s biggest stars (McCartney, Kings of Leon, Blur) and a venue that most international acts are determined to add to their touring CV.
Smith Westerns were in town to promote the delectable 2013 album “Soft Will”. One of two UK dates this was very much an ‘up close and personal’ opportunity for fans and expatriates alike to feel a little Chicago sunshine against the current UK autumn wind and rain. And the set started so well.
There were reminders of songs old and new. There were occasional jokes and quips from lead singer Cullen Omori … “If you don’t like our band then you’re in for a long night”. It was everything I, and the many fans, had been hoping for. There was a beautiful togetherness and the venue was certainly producing the best from the band.
It was a lively set consisting of tracks such as “Smile” and “Fallen in Love”, from previous albums “Dye It Blonde” and the 2009 self-titled LP. The excellent “Fool Proof” was performed with the confidence of a band at the top of their game. The crowd were warming to the proceedings and a momentum was starting to build.
However, at the two thirds point of the gig disaster struck. A broken string and then some sort of mishap with a hi-hat seemed to stop the momentum in its tracks. “3am Spiritual”, which should have been the high point of the evening, was poor. The vocals were no way near the high quality of what had gone before, and from that moment the band never really recovered.
Sure, these things happen but because the band tour here so rarely it was a huge disappointment.
Up to that point it was one of the most enjoyable gigs I had seen in 2013 and I’m certain that the residents of Manchester will reap the benefits tonight. This ageless band (incredibly they look the same now as they did in 2009) are a talented bunch and their ability to create rock tracks and off-set these with quite beautiful love songs is a rare talent indeed.
On a separate note many thanks to Harriet Gunner. On an evening of mishaps this wonderful young lady was in the right place at the right time to provide a cover photo for this GIGsoup article. While she may not always be available for weddings, Bar Mitzvahs’ and 50th wedding anniversaries her photographic skills were most welcomed last night.