Singer/ Songwriter Dustin Kensrue returns to UK shores in support of his third LP, Carry The Fire. The singer, well known to most people as the lead singer of the beloved Orange County Post-Hardcore stalwarts Thrice, has been doing his own solo stuff on and off since releasing Please Come Home in early 2007. Since Thrice announced their own indefinite hiatus back in 2012, Dustin has kept himself busy by following his religious beliefs and becoming a ‘worship pastor’, during that time he also released the solo follow-up to Please Come Home, ‘The Water And The Blood’ which was, essentially, a religious album. With the release of Carry The Fire, the religious themes have, once again dropped to the background, perhaps due to Dustin’s decision to leave the church due to controversy, caused by a pastor in their ranks. The album has been hailed as the natural follow-up to his dÃ©but. Playing acoustically on this tour instead of with a full band would give us a feel of how the songs would sound stripped down to just Dustin and his acoustic.
First up, Amsterdam folk singer Tim Vantol, another singer who would be stripping down his usual music to just him and acoustic. Having been in Birmingham only a few weeks touring with Chuck Ragan, immediately notes how strange it is to be playing his particular blend of Folk/Rock to a seated room, that is eerily quiet from the beginning. He soldiers on through the general uneasiness of the situation, to put on a set filled with heart and passion, as well as some excellent music. His voice is certainly unique, with a slight Dutch twinge when he sings, and although his particular style of acoustic music seems to be done to death nowadays, his accent and overall charm as a musician really help him stand out in a frankly over-saturated genre. He soon wins over the quiet crowd with some brilliant music and general humour between the songs, he even gets a couple of nice singalongs going, quiet singalongs, but singalongs nonetheless, which leave a big grin across the singers face.
Dustin takes to the stage soon after, armed with his acoustic guitar, a couple of harmonicas and a glass of whiskey as well as a genuine smile on his face. Proceeds to tell the crowd that he’ll play some new stuff, some old stuff, a few covers and to everyone’s delight, a couple of Thrice songs thrown in for good measure. He quickly thanked the support acts and let the music do the talking from here on in. Starting off with ‘Pistol’ off his dÃ©but album, sees Dustin showing off some of his Harmonica skills, and some really nice loud/quiet dynamics and of course an early sign of his brilliant voice. Going straight into a couple off his recent album, the songs sound just as good stripped back to just an acoustic and his voice as they do with the full band sound that is on the album.
I must say, considering how he mentioned that he only created the set-list for tonight at the gig before, he has definitely done a good job at compiling it. In my opinion, all of the better songs off his albums are included, ‘Pistol’, ‘Ravens’ and ‘I Knew You Before’ from his dÃ©but solo record, show off some of Dustin’s brilliant lyricism above some nice Bluesy, Dylan-esque vibes. ‘Blood And Wine’ sees Dustin in full 12 bar blues mode, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the crowd singing that walking baseline in my head. Songs off the new album sounded brilliant as well, stand out moments included his ode to his wife ‘Of Crows And Crowns’ a song that plays out like a heartfelt love letter, with lyrics like “My feet send roots beneath the rocks. To fix me to the ground. Never to float away again A captive to the tide. No more to wander in the wind. Without you by my side”.
The few Thrice covers get a big reaction from the crowd, ‘Words In The Water’ probably the best out of the three that he did, yet there was no singalongs to be heard, only a 100 or so people sitting intently, hanging on every word that Dustin so expertly sings. A cover of Lorde’s ‘Buzzcut Season’ seems a strange choice to cover, but it plays out well, as Dustin puts his own spin on it and pays tribute to one of the few pop singers around to include well thought out lyrics in their songs.
Ending the set with a rousing rendition of one of music’s greatest songwriters lesser known songs, Tom Waits’ ‘Down There By The Train’. A fitting end to the evening, one that felt a little weird at times due to the sitting down and the silence in the room throughout, but this silence, is more of a tribute to Dustin’s captivating song writing, song writing that makes a room want to sit and just appreciate, in my opinion, one of the best lyricists around at the moment.
Review: Francis Sebastjanowicz
Photographs: Sophie Jones