“We should go round the room and introduce ourselves,” laughs Jess as she and her bandmates step on stage. With that warm greeting, tonights’ show gets underway and despite only having a dozen or so patrons before them, the quintet go all out. ‘Drunk On Me’ brings with it a powerful vocal performance from Houston born Jess, who hits the highest notes of the number with ease while the song itself is just the kind of material Carrie Underwood and others would no doubt adore. Following this on with ‘Love Like That’ and ‘She Ain’t Me’, the applause, although polite, is long-lasting from the intrigued and smiling audience before them. “We’re here to warm you up, and I hope it’s working,” quips Jess before introducing the first cover of the set, ‘Ho-Hey’ by The Lumineers.
Having said in recent interviews that ‘If You Can’t Be Mine’ is one of her favourite tracks on their upcoming album due for release next year, she can’t hide the delight in her eyes as she finally gets to perform it. ‘Wanted Man’ is up next, before she introduces the fewer younger individuals before her to the music of Bonnie Raitt with a rendition of ‘Love Sneakin’ Up On You’ – it is the one track of the evening so far that has a distinctively rockier undertone, and it makes a nice little change. With a new single due for release shortly, Jess invites anyone who has heard it to sing along to the Kelly Clarkson-esque ‘My Name Is Trouble’ – so it is a shame that, at least until half way through, no-one manages to do so. Glenn Campbell then makes a surprise addition to the show, alas only in cover form, for ‘Wichita Lineman’ – It’s the slowest number of the set, but with the guitars so stripped back, Jess seizes the opportunity to really show what she can do and is rewarded with rapturous applause.
As their time on stage draws to an end, they finish with the declaration: “What we like to call Texas country might just become your new favourite style of music – you’re welcome,” and round off their set with ‘Single Tonight’ – a super catchy, toe-tappy number which draws smiles and albeit rather subdued cheers from the growing crowd as the final note is hit.
The venue is a good three quarters full by the time main eventer Pete, dressed in a stripy blue and red ensemble, and his band hit the stage. Opening with ‘Hang My Head In Shame’, its long musical interlude is far lengthier than it could or even should be, and sadly, such errors deeply flaw the set. Asking how everyone is with a chirpy “G’day” is a nice way to greet the patrons, and it leads nicely into ‘Evangeline’, which, were it not for Pete’s constant back turning, would have gone down rather well, but from the looks on disgruntled punters’ faces, they’re not particularly impressed.
The band have a new record out, ‘Theosophy’, and openly admit to still getting used to playing the latest material in their repertoire – truthfully, it shows. Pete far too often chats about what song to play next, despite having had a lengthy sound-check process in which to prepare, and the style of their music, with its rather subdued, laid back feel is reminiscent of something many might hear on a show like ‘Life On Mars’, a la David Bowie. Ideally, this shouldn’t be too much of a bad thing, but instead, there’s a sense of monotony present, broken up only by the catchier numbers such as ‘Dear Marie’, which are few and far between.
The introduction of Clive, who jumps on stage to play the harmonica, livens proceedings up dramatically, but even so, the group struggle to truly ignite the spark of interest that occasionally flickers among the audience. By the time they come off stage a little before 9.50, the venue is half empty, many people having had enough. It’s a sad sight, to see a headline act end their show with so few people to perform to, but you can never please everyone.