OTIS GIBBS : SQUARE TOWER OLD PORTSMOUTH – February 6th
Swathed in a scaffold cloak on a cold windy night, the 500 year old square tower was a grim sight, but once inside the vaulted roof of the lower hall, walls adorned with historic armorial shields, the conviviality of the makeshift bar soon warmed the cockles.
The veteran troubadour , with hat, glasses and long white beard, for all the world Billy Gibbons’ grandfather, soon had the packed house in his thrall. His rich honeyed vocal accompanied by the equally rich and fulsome tone of his acoustic guitar set an aural platform for the real stars of the show, his always evocative, sometimes humorous and sometimes poignant lyrics. He began with a beguiling paean of life on the road and tribute to his partner Amy, “she’d never settle for less than second best”, and then chronicled stories of his childhood in Wanamaker, Indiana, and of his travels, once being taken for a homeless man by a film crew in Frankfurt.
It was the timeless images though of his upbringing, evoking vivid pictures of life in small town America that really enchanted. The between song stories setting the scene for the lyrical poetry that followed. Being baby sat by his Uncle Briscoe who took him to the local bar to earn beer money from his charge’s singing, to the thrill of the annual tractor day. Mordant and incisive comment on today’s social mores too, quoting a US trucker “I maybe fat and ugly but I’m not on facebook”!
Beguiling stagecraft , encouraging some “manufactured enthusiasm” from us and some brutal honesty on the subject of encores, also appealed. The only quibble on a night of memorable rootsy Americana provided by promoter Ken Brown and his friendly team was the brevity of the 80 minute set.
Quality over quantity was never truer said.