Josh T. Pearson @ The Glee Club, 28th September 2011

Support for the evening comes from Leicester band We Three And The Death Rattle. A three-piece consisting of a guitarist, drummer and a lead vocalist (armed with a theremin). This band wear their influences…literally. Sporting a George Jones baseball hat (from the official country star George Jones’ website) the guitarist and co offer up their Midlands take on the country/blues inspired music that has illuminated the masses for as long as we care to remember. With songs such as ‘Alligators’, ‘Split Lips’ and ‘Bobby Hughes Blues’, the band recounts stories of regret, loss and the misgivings of a troubled soul. Despite their efforts, the whole thing seems more like a band masquerading as something they are most certainly not. Perhaps things would be different were it not for what followed?

With a gentle sweep of the stage curtain and a composed step into the spotlight, the unmistakable vessel of sorrow makes himself known to the hushed inhabitants of Birmingham’s Glee Club. Tonight’s expectant gathering of fans, many long-term and some newly adopted, will be under no illusions as to the significance of this evening’s next offering. Fully aware of the emotional terrain that they are set to encounter; the pathway marked out for them by the bearded journeyman Josh T Pearson.
Many here will have no doubt first encountered Pearson through his previous incarnation, as one third of John Peel favourites Lift To Experience. Having produced the critically acclaimed album The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads, the band, like so many before them, imploded before a second album could materialise. Pearson retreated into the shadows, living in various cities across Europe, possibly wondering if he’d ever be capable, or even permitted the chance to record another album. Thankfully, Pearson has made a stunning return to the fold. Currently touring his first release for the esteemed Mute records with ‘The Last of the Country Gentlemen’, he has once more produced an album that distinguishes itself from all around it.

It’s showtime, well almost. A minor technical fault delays proceedings momentarily, and whilst the sound engineer attends to the gremlins, Pearson playfully teases the audience as to their life choices: in that they have nothing better to do on a Wednesday evening than come to hear him play. After a nod from the engineer, Pearson ceases with the ribbing and in a moment’s breath makes the transition from courteous banter to woeful lament. This impressive shift of sentiment will become a familiar occurrence throughout his set, Pearson justifying his leaps from the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous (the banter of course) as a way of restoring the audiences threshold for pain ‘I tell terrible jokes because the songs are so sad’, he murmurs in his undeniably seductive Texan tone.
Focusing predominantly upon ‘The Last of the Country Gentlemen’, except for a cover of the Boney M monster hit ‘Rivers of Babylon’, to which Pearson adds his distinctive touch; giving new depth to a Rastafarian classic that for many, far from conjuring up visions of biblical plight, is far more likely to remind them of the excruciating Saturday morning trapped in a supermarket as a child, whilst the Boney M version massaged the aisles with it’s potent ‘psalms’.

With many of Pearson’s songs approaching the upper reaches of the ten-minute rule of thumb, the audience can only be described as impeccable. In a society where the attention span is under constant assault from every viable angle, Pearson’s music demand’s a fervent focus. Such perseverance is a far less daunting task when you’re listening to songs brimming with the quality, intensity and honesty being offered up tonight. With each song addressing the age-old ills surrounding lost love and a broken spirit, Pearson manages to walk this well-trodden path, evading the regrettable clichés (unlike myself) that we are only too familiar with. His steps are so assured and genuine that it’s difficult not to be swept up in the torrent of anguish.

The irony surrounding the choice of venue for tonight’s performance is about as subtle as the over-sized letters adorning the stage behind Pearson. The gigantic word ‘GLEE’, seemingly as destitute as the words falling from Pearson’s mouth. With songs titled ‘Woman, When I’ve Raised Hell’ and ‘Sweetheart I Ain’t Your Christ’, Pearson relives the pain of a doomed pairing for us all to hear, the room reduced to silence out of necessity as many times during the performance, Pearson’s voice and guitar retreat to little more than a whisper. As mentioned earlier, following such harrowing retellings of despair, Pearson raises our spirits; reconnecting in order rejuvenate both himself and his attentive audience by offering a barrage of “musician” related jokes: ‘What’s the difference between a musician and a family sized pizza?’ ‘The pizza can feed a family’. There was one memorable joke relating to the Texan pastime of bestiality with goats; perhaps it’s best that I refrain from relaying this one to you in my first review for Brumlive.

For all this evening’s preoccupation with sadness and sorrow (peppered with moments of laughter), leaving the Glee Club, the audience seemed relatively upbeat. Perhaps it’s because Josh T Pearson offers us something that is all too scarce nowadays. I left with a sense of having been jolted out of the mundane, the numbness that walks hand in hand with high streets up and down this country. Josh T Pearson made me, and I suspect, everybody in that room feel something. There is a line in his song ‘Thou Art Loosed’ where he sings ‘I’m off to save the world’: perhaps he might just do that, one gig at a time.

Review – Chris Curtis

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