Jack Savoretti has become one popular guy. The queue to get into this sold-out gig meant that a lot of people couldn’t get into Cardiff’s Tramshed before the promising Earl had all but finished her acoustic support act. Savoretti’s showcasing by Graham Norton and Jonathan Ross has brought out an evenly spread audience of 25 to 60 year olds, eager to hear his grippingly-driven heart-felt songs in the flesh.
After a short instrumental intro, the band launched into his call-to-arms ‘Written In Scars’. ”We are the revolution, we want it all tonight”, if not as theatrical an experience as watching the Doors proclaiming “we want the world and we want it now!” at their Isle of Wight performance in 1970, its rolling rhythm set the pace for the set, an unbroken hour and a half of songs chiefly from his last two albums.
Except for ‘Nobody ‘Cept You’, a song with a very personal significance for him which he performed solo, he was backed by musicians that complemented the fluency and drive of his own playing. A variety of guitars were presented to him and his guitarist Pedro Vito before virtually every song, so keeping the sound fresh to the ear. His keyboard player (from the Specials) played some guitar and harmonica too, and bass player John Bird Junior helped mellow the song ‘Soldiers Eyes’ by drawing a cello bow across his upright bass.
All but two songs were from his last two albums ‘Before The Storm’ and ‘Written In Scars’ released a year ago. They played no new material, suggesting there in no new album in the offing. With echoes of his presumed influences such as David Gray and Chris Isaak, the set mixed impassioned upbeat songs busily driven by his inventive rhythm section while his more melancholic reflective numbers like ‘Home’, ‘Catapult’ (reminiscent of Lana del Rey’s ‘Video Games’) and ‘Dreamers’ were no less compelling or soulfully sung.
Jack Savoretti clearly enjoys both performing and communicating. Between songs, he entertained with some banter and an anecdote or two, though it was hard to hear from the side of the venue. He introduced ‘Nobody ‘Cept You’ as an outtake of Bob Dylan’s (on ‘Bootleg Series vol 1’) he first heard while at the recording studio of Jackson Browne, a major influence he was happy to acknowledge, inviting an observation. Since he confesses to liking titles with a play on words, perhaps ‘Before The Storm’ was written as homage to one of the defining songs of the 1970s, Jackson Browne’s ‘Before The Deluge’.
Hearing ‘Nobody ‘Cept You’ seems to have been a seminal moment in his career. He dedicated his version to his wife who helped him get through the bad times when it seemed career was going nowhere. He had a long legal battle with his former manager, which he got over by pouring his wounded feelings into writing ‘Before The Storm’, a set of more emotionally engaging songs which got noticed. One is reminded that Bruce Springsteen had a similar experience of being ripped off by his manager, after being touted as the ‘next big thing’ as Jack Savoretti once was.
Now of course Bruce Springsteen can sell out a stadium in minutes. It is unlikely Jack Savoretti will rival him in that regard, if only because he is reportedly more comfortable playing to an audience the size that turned up at Cardiff’s Tramshed tonight. Here, there was no danger that the intimacy of his material and delivery may be compromised.
So go and see him if you can. A performer with a grittier soulful voice and more engaging songs backed by a compelling band is hard to find. His next tour with some new material will be eagerly awaited.
This Jack Savoretti article was written by Peter Gaskell, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse.