Kiefer Sutherland @ O2 Institute 21 October, 2019

A gig makes a promising start when Under The Pressure by The War On Drugs is cranked up prior to the band entering the stage, followed by a truly vivacious Kiefer Sutherland who is welcomed by a chorus of applause and cheers. Dressed in a white blazer and hat, Sutherland delivers a straight down the line country number, Rebel Wind, which he nails without question especially as he is bounding around the stage with the exuberance of a performer half his age. Throughout the night, Sutherland’s energy level doesn’t dip and the positivity being produced on the stage is contagious therefore increasing the vibe in the near sell-out crowd.

Even when the tempo of the songs alter, such as I Can’t Stay Away, the atmosphere remains charged and it becomes apparent how many people know the songs, kudos to Kiefer’s songwriting.  Needless to say, he has a selection of five incredibly competent musicians playing an array of instruments from mandolin to accordion with the obligatory lapsteel to secure country and roots status.  I have to admit the lap steel does overpower the other instruments, most noticeably the piano in Fade Blue Jeans which is a shame as the piano line was beautifully elegant and should have been given prominence in the mix.

It takes three songs before Kiefer Sutherland addresses the audience, with his sultry rough voice showering appreciation upon the listeners. From this point on, he regularly talks about the motivation behind songs which usually includes comedic quips about his parents and past events. My favourite being about Donald Sutherland driving his two young children to nursery in a Ferrari, with long hair and a beard, playing Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door repeatedly hence the need for the cover version to play a part in the set. These anecdotes add to the intimate atmosphere he is trying to create, in addition to the stage props and the warm lighting which makes you feel like you are in a lounge, but furthermore feel like they add to the authenticity of Sutherland as a country music songwriter. Kiefer’s well-documented past ensures he can make reference to situations without having to go into detail, as evidenced by his connection to Johnny Cash and inspiration behind Shirley Jean, a classic finger picking number about a man facing execution.

The set is crafted to ensure there isn’t a saturation of traditional country, songs like Going Home have a far sleazier feel with its more Tom Petty essence (an artist he pays homage to later with a cover of Honey Bee) and the haunting, All She Wrote.  All She Wrote is the highlight of the set with its resounding bass drum that reverberates round the venue as Sutherland’s capacity for the sinister is unleashed with its flurries of musical drama. This is followed by Down In A Hole, the title track of his first album, with a churning guitar riff and a steady groove which completes the main set on a high. The band hardly have time to get off the stage before they all return for the encore which commences with the ballad Calling Out Your Name that sees Twinnie join him on stage.

The song has a classic beauty about it however the dual vocals aren’t as complementary as the recorded version which seems a shame as Sutherland probably could have delivered a more solid solo version.  The final song of the evening is Agave with its Latin infused rhythms and guitar solo that sees Kiefer leaping around the stage and back in the drum riser for one last time as he brings the show to a close, again with nothing but gratitude for the audience. This may be an obvious statement but Kiefer Sutherland does sound like Kiefer Sutherland singing which adds to the genuine nature of the performance. Furthermore, you cannot question his commitment to music making, considering he is one of the highest grossing actors of all time, Kiefer approaches the gig with humility giving a superbly tight and energetic display of musical talent.

Review: Toni Woodward
Photos: Andra Tudoran

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