‘Please make welcome, Mr Otis Gibbs from Wanamaker, Indiana’ said Mr Otis Gibbs as he made a return to this venue and opened his show on America’s Independence Day. He said that he had celebrated this popular holiday by having stewed tomatoes for breakfast!
Expecting the set list to focus quite heavily on his most recent album HARDER THAN HAMMERED HELL, it was a little surprising to note that less than a handful of songs from it were featured (Second Best, Never Enough, Detroit Steel and Don’t Worry Kid) with the selection spanning not only his self-penned material from earlier releases but also a few well-chosen cover songs.
With his workman like appearance, Gibbs presents an impression of the ‘everyday people’ whose stories he recounts in his songs. His ability to combine melody with incisive lyrics makes an immediate impact and the songs stay with you for long after he has left the stage. Comparisons with those other ‘working class heroes’ Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle have followed Gibbs, but he is his own man. His roughly hewn voice, his dexterity on guitar and ready self-deprecating wit all serve to win over the most hardened of hearts.
There were many memorable moments, the most poignant of which was the dedication of Something More to a recently deceased friend. Others included affectionate stories about his ‘Uncle’ Briscoe who used to babysit the toddler Gibbs by taking him to a honky-tonk bar whereupon he’d sing songs for tips, which Briscoe would promptly spend on drink! Two of the songs he learned during those younger days were played tonight – Hank Williams’ Lonesome Whistle and Nat Stuckey’s Sweet Thang which closed out the evening.
Having no time for the charade that is the encore, the evening drew to its close with Gibbs explaining that he’d play a couple of songs before finishing – one Karluv Most (Charles Bridge) was ‘unplugged’ for which he came off stage and wove his way across the floor interspersing the lyrics with the odd aside like ‘nice T-Shirt’ to a member of the paying audience.
One of the songs tonight was Ain’t Nothing Special well I beg to differ – Gibbs is ‘something special’ and will always find a warm welcome here in Brighton, a city that prides itself on its diversity and openness to all artistic forms.
An honourable mention to support act Boss Caine who grows in confidence and hones his stagecraft with each live performance. Another honourable mention goes to the soundman this evening who did an excellent job. This venue, more than just an ‘itty-bitty’ room above a busy pub in Brighton, famous for its Banksy mural of two gay policemen, is one of the best for the sound quality of the live shows presented. Jela Webb
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