23 Apr 2019
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Darren Watson - Gig Review: Darren Watson @ The Playhouse, Nelson - 24/05/2018

25 May 2018 // A review by Jacquie Walters

I last saw Darren Watson play in early January at The Playhouse near Nelson. He was nervously excited about the upcoming release of his new album and playing at the gig in a support role for Paul Ubana Jones.

Watson’s return performance last night at The Playhouse as part of his album release tour was nothing less than triumphant. Rave reviews of his new album Too Many Millionaires preceded him – from this reviewer and from other reviewers in NZ and in the UK, USA, and Australia. It has also achieved significant chart success since its release.

Expectations of the gig were high as Watson is touring with the exact line up who recorded the album with him – long-time collaborator Terry Casey (harmonica), Steve Moodie (upright bass) and Delia Shanly (drums and percussion).

Despite the extremely chilly weather an enthusiastic crowd of about 50 were there to hear Watson and his band debut the album. Everything about the gig was poised and immaculate. The audience got to experience musicians comfortable in their collaboration, engaged with the music, and at the peak of their powers – what a combination!

Watson’s vocals and guitar playing are outstanding. He hits the beginning of each song cleanly and expertly and as an audience member you feel you’re in the presence of a true headline act at all times. Opening the concert with St Hilda’s Faithless Boy from an earlier album Watson sang “I was never lost so I can’t be found” and watching him it certainly feels like he has found his sweet spot as a songwriter and performer. 

Joined by his fellow musicians to do a run through of the entire new album in the order it was recorded, the group produced a sound that was as impressive, if not more impressive, than their recording. This was deeply satisfying for those of us who were already familiar with the record and had audience members who didn’t already have a copy queuing up afterwards to buy one (or more than one in some cases).

Terry Casey’s harmonica playing was absolutely world class but to single him out is perhaps unfair as the group as a whole are a quartet of equals. Watson is the consummate blues performer – right on the money from start to finish. Shandley and Moody provide the bedrock, which is not easy to do in some of the slower and more languid numbers with such a stripped back and subtle sound (a misplaced bass note, drum beat, or shaker rattle would really stand out).

The aspect of the gig that I will remember most, however, are Watson’s songs. Creating original blues songs that are pertinent, poignant, gritty and stand up alongside the best is the world is no mean feat, but Watson has done just that. His catalogue of original material and the conviction with which he performs it is all that you want a blues concert to contain. Great songs, great musicianship and on-stage generosity of spirit between the performers – what more could you want?

“If you ain’t got no soul you’re no good to anyone, even yourself,” sings Watson. This man has soul and he deserves to be seen and heard.

Festivals – please book this group. They’re destined for greatness (actually they're already there).


Review written by Jacquie Walters

 

About Darren Watson

No-one plays the blues like Darren Watson. Over the better part of three decades he has developed a style that, while touching on all of the greats who inspired him, is personal, powerful and identifiably his own.

Watson gained national fame in the 80s as the young front-man and guitar-slinger for Smokeshop. The band made two albums, had several radio hits, opened for numerous international blues legends and toured tirelessly, earning Watson a place alongside the likes of Midge Marsden, Hammond Gamble and Rick Bryant as one of New Zealand's best blues interpreters.


Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Darren Watson

Releases

Too Many Millionaires
Year: 2018
Type: Album
Introducing Darren Watson
Year: 2014
Type: Album
Saint Hilda's Faithless Boy
Year: 2010
Type: Album
South Pacific Soul
Year: 2005
Type: Album
King Size
Year: 2002
Type: Album

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