Published on January 27th, 2019 | by Nigel Cartner0
Israel Nash – Deaf Institute, Manchester – 24th Jan 2019 Live Review
‘Keep Rolling On’
Israel Nash making his long-awaited return to Manchester after a five-year absence was probably one of the most highly anticipated gigs I’ve been to for years. Since being subjected to his ingenious 2013 album, ‘Rain Plans’, about three years ago, Nash’s dulcet musings have acted as a form of escapism that allows personal reflection and soul searching on one hand and invokes abstract imagery within an idyllic, paradisaical world on the other.
This tour comes off the back of his fifth studio album release, ‘Lifted’, an album designed to lift souls, and is arguably his most compelling release to date, adding a further ten tracks or so to an already burgeoning repertoire of delightfully crafted Americana/country rock tunes that are glazed with a tinge of psychedelia.
With Catalonian, Joana Serrat, supporting, we were treated to a pair of artists that have this innate ability to whisk you away into another realm beyond reality. A long-time friend of Nash, Serrat sets the tone for the evenings highlight, seamlessly going hand in hand with what Nash would later conjure up. She stands alone onstage, armed with nothing but her acoustic guitar and serenades us with a number of songs that merge Spanish folk and Americana. Stripped of a backing band that features on the albums, Serrat is painted in a different light, where the songs are delivered in a melancholier and more sensitive tone. The lyrical poignancy is conveyed by her wonderful, velvet vocal that effortlessly sweeps its way under your skin to leave goosebumps after every potent note is hit. This is my first viewing of Joana Serrat, but I completely understand why fellow Sonic Bandwagon writer, Gareth Allen, rated her so highly on his review of her a couple of years ago.
Israel Nash is up next, arriving onstage with his three long-time friends and band mates, that are an equally important cog to the illustrious sound they emanate. They open with, ‘Lucky Ones’, a finely written upbeat track that epitomises Nash’s uplifting approach to songwriting, setting the tone for the whole show.
His powerful, raw and gravelly vocal is in fine form, but despite the raw nature of it, there’s also a soothing aspect to it, typifying two ends of the vocal spectrum that seems implausible for one person to emit. Eric Swanson on the pedal steel is the tonic to this setup, providing the pensiveness to Nash’s and the rest of the band’s strengths. It adds such a different dimension to every song and is one of the main reasons why each song stirs the imagination into a world of dusty golden and orange landscapes, with the sun fading at dusk in the distance over rocky mountain tops in the arid desert.
Several tracks off the hypnotic ‘Rain Plans’ album are played. ‘Rexanimarum’, ‘Mansions’, and ‘Woman at the Well’ all hit the mark, but it’s the song, ‘Rain Plans’ itself that’s the highlight. Michelangelo has The Sistine Chapel, Da Vinci has The Mona Lisa, and Israel Nash has ‘Rain Plans’ as his own masterpiece. It’s one of the most flawless songs I’ve ever had the privilege of listening to. For me, it is the quintessential Israel Nash track, and the raised cheers that went on before and after the song was played showed that his audience thought the same.
Afterwards, Nash and Swanson are left alone onstage to strip back two numbers from the ‘Barn Doors and Concrete Floors’ album. Nash opens up about writing a lot about Dripping Springs in Texas, the place he lives, and after googling some photos of the town since the gig, I’m not surprised he finds so much inspiration there. What a stunning looking place, which looks like it’s been sculpted from an image of heaven. He does reveal that he sings about other places too, like Los Angeles, which leads him to, ‘LA Lately’, a moving emotive, ballad, off the ‘Silver Season’ album that depicts the effervescent City of Angels in a solemn tone.
Nash’s message before playing his final song is, “Find beautiful people and love them,” and the man and his music embodies that philosophy. ‘Through the Door’ ends the show and follows the same blueprint as the rest of the songs, namely, fantastic harmonies and scintilating melodies that are wrapped in all the delights of a typically, striking Texan sound.
The two-song encore begins with Joana Serrat joining Nash and Swanson for a rendition of Radiohead’s, ‘No Surprises’, delivered in such a way that completely reinvents the famous track. The rest of the band re-join them for the final song, ‘Rolling On’, the lead track off the new album where the message is to keep rolling on in the face of adversity. Nash certainly does that, and through his music, he’s leading an army of fans to follow suit.
To say I was blown away is an understatement! This was a performance at the highest level from a naturally gifted individual and band who are deserving of so much more recognition. They might not have the same level of fan base as their predecessors in similar genres, such as Neil Young, but in my opinion, they more than match them for talent and quality.
His music is unique in how it can make you feel. There can be a sombreness to it, but contrarily the subconscious message shines through to lift your spirits high and help you find hope and meaning, which Nash has stated is what his latest album is all about, but I suspect that’s been his motive for most of the years he’s been writing and recording.
In short, this is music that simply has to be heard and absorbed!
To read the interview with Israel Nash click here
Photos by @elancsnetworkin – lovelocalnetworking