Live Gig Review: Brian Boyle (Journalist / Writer / Contributor)
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
Although not as universally lauded as fellow Seattlers’ such as Chris Cornell, or the late Kurt Cobain, Shawn Smiths’ reputation among his peers, and hugely devoted following, remains exemplary. The Washington native has been plying his trade in the capital with a number of bands, mainly Satchel, Pigeonhed and Brad, who also feature Pearl Jams’ Stone Gossard, and has been quoted as saying about his band mate “everyone needs to hear him”. High praise indeed.
A well versed audience huddled into the intimate setting of Whelans, a venue that specializes in gigs of high intimacy and even higher informality. This being his maiden voyage to Dublin’s fair city, this one man show was the ideal way to fully absorb the songs of one of musics best kept secrets.
Smith cuts a very laid back gentle giant figure, almost dwarfing his electric piano, and once his first words are sung, he has your full attention. The scale at which songs like Screen and Suffering are delivered do make you feel a bit sorry for anybody, including myself, who has never been fully immersed in his music. Despite a penchant for singing songs about death, the vast majority of his work has a peaceful and hopeful content. And also, a dollop of black humour, brilliantly displayed on Crown Of Thorns, a twisted love song performed with sluggish humour.
Smiths’ loyal disciples made no secret of their delight when the opening chimes of Satchel gems, Isn’t That Right and Not Too Late, rang out. That vibe continued with Buttercup, with a guy in front of me raising his hands towards the roof with uncontrollable appreciative joy. That more than summed up the effect Smiths’ work has had on people. Standout track of the night had to be his hair raising rendition of Princes’ classic, Purple Rain, executed with so much emotion, even his royal purpleness would have approved.
Twenty years ago I used to squirm at the very mention of the Seattle music scene, always visualizing endless amounts of check shirted clad youths reveling in each others false misery. Thankfully, age has brought me a wider view, and this Shawn Smith performance only enhanced that. I walked in to this concert a relative novice, and while I didn’t leave a die hard fan, next time he hits these shores, I’m there.