Rated 4 out of
Hoping this isn't the final farewell tour
Having only recently (10-15 years ago) discovered Giant Sand, I feel as though I've missed a significant part of what could have been a musical and cultural journey. Giant Sand, in all it's various incarnations, don't appear to fit into any musical genre; and the punters I met at the gig (Giant Sand "veterans") claimed to have no idea what to expect that evening. It's not as if Giant Sand has a "Greatest hits" album knocking around that they take on tour with them.
So, here we are, in a bar underneath Stamford Bridge (Chelsea's football stadium in case this matters to you). The place is full - meaning there are about 300 of us slouched on seats and stools near the bar or the stage, whatever is your location of choice.
A strange looking couple appears on the stage, wearing ironic 70's style outfits adorned with tassles. To the sound of early 80's keyboards and synth, we stand bemused and open-mouthed as they chunter through a number of languid and, let's be honest here, pretty forgettable knock-offs of some slow 80's style synthesizer pop. The best part of the performance was the absence of any "break" between numbers, as I was concerned that one of the audience would feel obliged to put their pint down and start a ripple of applause. Thankfully this didn't happen so we just drank our beer in a bemused silence.
They finished their set and I wandered off to the bathroom to admire the tiling.
When I returned, Howe and the band had launched into their 1st song. This was more like it! A strong drum and bass rhythm with Howe's masterful guitar playing and distinctive vocals.
Howe announces that his band, comprised of one of his veteran (not dead yet) drummers and assorted family members (including our support band which happens to be his daughter and son in law) is going to play a re-released (or long-forgotten) early album "Recounting the ballads of thin line men"
Nope, none of the other punters had heard it either but, you know, it doesn't matter. Howe's musicianship, talent and easy-going charisma and presence is so finely crafted after 40 years, that he can entertain a crowd easily. As he took us through the set, Howe explained how the album had come to be re-released. He was self-deprecating enough to claim that one of the songs wasn't really any good ("just two chords that repeat themselves a lot")
After just over an hour, the performance came to an end. We were treated to an encore and the sense that Howe was very much enjoying himself in his own low-key way.
If this really is his final tour, I'm sad. I've only just become acquainted with his music and would like to see him perform again. There are so many noisy, moderately talented bands and artists in the world and not enough quiet geniuses. We need Howe Gelb and Giant Sand more than ever.
I've bought the album. It's lovely. I hope they tour again even if they don't play this album any more.
Date published: 2019-11-23