REVIEW: Ethan Johns / Marika Hackman Colston Hall 2 8/10
THE third night of his debut headline tour, this was the closest to a hometown show for Bath-based Ethan Johns, who admitted that he was uncharacteristically nervous playing in front of so many familiar faces.
By the time he walked on stage, all seats were taken and there was standing room only in the intimate surroundings of Colston Hall 2, a space that used to be the venue's main bar.
As a solo artist in his own right, Johns may be a relatively new name to many people but he has spent the past two decades in recording studios producing albums by some of the biggest acts around. The Brit Award-winning producer's production credits include Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon, Laura Marling, The Vaccines and Ray LaMontagne.
This gig coincided with the official release of his debut album, If Not Now Then When?, an album mixed at the famous Sunset Sound studio in Los Angeles by his father Glyn, (himself a legendary producer who worked on classic records by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and The Who). The album formed the bulk of the 70-minute set, although a smattering of new songs indicated that he has plenty of other top-drawer material in his repertoire, particularly the Dylanesque songs The Sun Hardly Rises and Among The Sugar Pines.
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Musically, Johns wears his influences on his sleeve – think Dylan, Neil Young, English folk – and he has an excellent voice. On Morning Blues, he proved himself to be a fine guitarist, whilst Hello Sunshine and the single, Whip Poor Will, showed a softer, folkier side to Johns. Performing solo with the help from a drum machine and the occasional taped sound effects, Johns switched from guitars to piano on Eden, one of the stand-out tracks of the evening.
This was an impressive set from an artist who has emerged from the recording studio producing others to prove himself as a solo artist every bit as talented as those he has worked with. It would be good to see him with a full band on the next tour. With musician friends in such high places, that might prove a very interesting prospect indeed.
Earlier in the evening, rising star of the new English folk scene, Marika Hackman, opened the show with a confident and memorable set. Songs such as Retina Television and Follow The Road proved that she really is a name to watch and her solo show at the Louisiana next month is sure to be well attended as a result of this performance.