Langhorne Slim‘s appearances on this side of the pond are few and far between. There was a brief layover towards the tail end of last summer that coincided with the re-release of his brilliant album The Spirit Moves and he may have brought over his band The War Eagles to a handful of venues back in 2008, but that’s about it. This current all-too-brief sojourn around the more obscure parts of the UK was therefore an opportunity too good to miss.
“I’ve got no idea where I am,” he informs the seated audience in the small church venue in the centre of Chester, just around the corner from the Roman amphitheatre ruins. “A few nights ago I played in a laundromat, last night I was in an actual club in London, that was nice, and now here,” and he surveys the peaceful surroundings of St. Mary’s Creative Space. He then asks the crowd to pick up their seats and bring them closer to the stage. There is an undignified shuffling and scraping of chairs as we all inch forwards towards the singer/songwriter born Sean Scolnick in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. This creates a more intimate ambience for tonight’s reflective, informal and ultimately incredibly upbeat and rewarding evening of music.
There is an improvised feel to proceedings this evening; the setlist resides in Slim’s head and if he goes blank he refers to a big book of notes, lyrics and other ideas which spur him on. Some songs start and fizzle out as the lyrics elude him, but this informal approach contributes to the unique nature of the show. Initially seated, he treats us to early highlights from the aforementioned album The Spirit Moves. ‘Airplane’ and ‘Changes’ are wonderfully graceful songs and the sonorous acoustics created by the venue’s high ceilings and solid stone walls amplify the equally strong, evocative vocals.
Various tracks provides us with an insight into Langhorne Slim’s character and inspirations as we’re treated to vivid introductions to songs which identify the importance of his family, particularly the older generations. This is particularly the case when he describes the summertime in ‘Ocean City’ with his grandparents. For fans of the Americana genre, this is why we love it. Deeply personal and visually vivid, it presents a version of America untainted by a fake corporate consumerism, telling stories of a real America full of complicated problems and authentic people. Langhorne Slims nails this in compelling fashion.
Slim can’t stay seated for long and he spends the final third of the show on his feet, moving amidst the seated crowd performing personal vignettes as he passes. ‘Song for Sid’ is granted the longest introduction as he dutifully informs us of his love for his grandparents, their influence on his life and in particular Grandad Sid. His sincerity is moving and the track is a beautifully sensitive requiem for his loved ones, blessed with the most exquisite acoustic tones that shimmer in the low lights of the church.
He ends the evening in a more upbeat fashion with the rollicking opening title track from his brilliant 2013 album The Way We Move. Demanding the crowd stand, he continues to roam amongst us as his voice crackles and he spars joyfully with one of the Chester locals during the raucous chorus. It’s a brilliant and life affirming way to end the evening. It may be a while before we see Slim back on these shores – it was an absolute pleasure spending an hour or so in his company.
Photos: Iain Fox