Artist: Otis Gibbs
Venue: The Square Tower, Old Portsmouth
“So everyone please put your hands together for Mr Otis Gibbs”, followed by a rapture of applause whilst Otis chills at the back of the stage, apparently lost in the medieval marvels of the Square Tower. He suddenly remembers where he is and asks the audience if they could cheer for him one more time, in rock-star fashion. The audience oblige, engaging with his warm and rumbling American tones.
You’d expect someone all the way from Wanamaker, Indiana via East Nashville, Tennessee, to have some remarkable stories – especially with a beard as long as Otis’s. If you came to the show then you’ll know that I’m correct in saying that Otis Gibbs is a songwriter of the highest calibre. There are no frivolities here, just straight up, honest songs conceived by a truly worldly gentleman.
The quality of Otis’s songs is so marked that no matter what the subject, each individual story is uplifting and as with every great musician, it leaves you eagerly awaiting the next tune.
Strong fan favourite “Caroline” featured early on in the set, telling the melancholy tale of a young woman and her struggles through life. Running in the same vein, two songs from his latest album, “Made to Break” and “Don’t Worry Kid” resonated around the Square Tower to a fantastic reception.Being very proud of the small town from which he hails from, Otis enthrals with his stories of home.
“Small Town Saturday Night” is a perfect example of how Gibbs spins even the most mundane of day-to-day yarns, into remarkably captivating narratives. He remarks that the Square Tower is one of the most unique places he’s ever played, having never played in a five-hundred year old tower before.
It’s always fantastic to hear the musical versatility of an artist and there was plenty of that to be seen from foot-tapping, chord-strumming in “Where Only The Graves Are Real”, to the soft and tender jangle of “Something More” – a song that Gibbs offers up for one of his sadly departed best friends from years gone by.
Gibbs insists he doesn’t like the idea of an encore; he’d rather everyone cheered and wooped whilst he stands and soaks it up, before easing into his final melody. He unplugs his guitar and comes down into the crowd to sing “Karluv Most” unplugged. Despite being such a tall figure with a deep, gravelly voice and the old-country blues in the tips of his fingers, Otis resonates a tenderness through his songwriting that you wouldn’t necessarily expect. This final song however, showcased the raw yet intricate genius that Gibbs has to offer.
There seems to be a strong stirring for something Americana in Hampshire currently, as the show was a sell-out! Maybe it was just Otis’s incredible beard that made people curious, but one thing’s for sure – a standing ovation never lies about great artists such as Mr Otis Gibbs.
*images reproduced with kind permission from Otis Gibbs, Garcon Life and Donna Brown ©2103