Saving Grace + The Rails @ Town Hall, 22nd December 2019

And so, to the final gig of the year (for me) and come to that matter the final gig of the decade, and it really does not get any better than Saving Grace, as Robert Plant describes them “a co-operative from the Black Country”.

Saving Grace consist of the beautiful harmonies of Suzi Dian and Robert Plant, supported musically by Oli Jefferson, Tony Kelsey and multi-instrumentalist Matt Worley (referred to by Plant as “Gary Numan from Stourport”).

The set is a delight, consisting of songs from the past 100 years, songs which Plant says he has picked up over the years, from the early days when he played the Town Hall “when it was loud up here” to more recent times when he has collaborated with others.  Most notably amongst them the multi-award winning album with Alison Krauss, and it’s so easy to draw comparisons to that collaboration with Saving Grace, the harmonies, the beautiful cover versions, and for ninety minutes the crazy world in which we find ourselves remains forgotten and outside.

Plant is in good form, telling us about a Bluegrass festival he played at, “you could tell it was Bluegrass as most folks were asleep”, before a stunning version of Doc Watson’s ‘Your long journey’, a fitting farewell song to the departed wife of the songwriter. 

Plant tells us he was given a box of CD’s of camp-fire songs, and one such song was ‘Cindy I will marry you someday’, just beautiful and you can imagine this song being sung somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains, around said fire.

A mention is made of Mothers, the famous Birmingham club, and of Moby Grape who were used and abused by the music industry, at which point we are told there are no t-shirts or merchandise tonight “how would we know what sizes”?

The set ends with ‘Ohio’ a Patty Griffin cover, who Plant has worked with previously, before the expected encore of an acapella version of ‘Goodnight Fellows’.

This really was a beautiful evening, and I feel honoured to have been part of it. As a life-long fan of Robert Plant it was a joy to be in a small room with him, hearing songs which soothe the soul. Plant appears to be having the time of his life, Wolves (where he is Vice President) are flying and musically he is in such a good place, playing music he loves, for him and his friends. And that’s what tonight felt like, as if we were friends being treated.

Support tonight was by The Rails, an acoustic duo (husband and wife no less) hailing from London. They have harmonies to die-for and each take lead vocal duties on their own. James Walbourne clearly has a wicked sense of humour and their set is easy on the ears. Kami Thompson also has the most beautiful voice, but when you look at their history it’s no surprise. Walbourne previously played with The Pogues and Thompson is the daughter of Richard and Linda Thompson.

They released Cancel The Sun in August 2019 (on Thirty Tigers) and stand out songs were “Mossy Well” and “Something is Slipping my Mind”. Of the album Chrissie Hinde said “I can’t stop listening to it, it’s brilliant”, high praise indeed, and welcome as Walbourne has also played with The Pretenders in the past.

The Rails were a perfect support for Saving Grace and I look forward to seeing them again live.

As for 2020, who knows? There’s been no mention of any Saving Grace recordings, but it’s really crying out for an album. Robert Plant can do no wrong, and whilst it’s cliched, he does get better with age. I really am looking forward to hearing and seeing more of Saving Grace in the next decade.

Reviewer: Glenn Raybone

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