Folk/Rock god Simone Felice, who produced the Lumineers’ latest album, enjoyed himself with a solo show at a packed Slaughtered Lamb in London’s trendy Clerkenwell.
Opening for Felice was his protégé Diana Demuth, the young American singer-songwriter who Felice has been producing. She played an impressive six-track solo set, finishing with her new single, Rose Of Nantucket, from her forthcoming Felice-produced album due later in 2020. Demuth later joined Felice for three tracks, including Bye Bye Palenville.
Felice kicked off with War Movie from the album The Projector, and then into Courtney Love. Three tracks in he laid down his acoustic guitar and passionately recited his four-page poem BareTrees.
Simone (with a silent “e”) Felice is not an easy listen. He is a compelling watch and listen. You feel in the presence of creative greatness. Charismatic and with a stripped-back stark delivery and delay timing to rival Sinatra, Felice draws you into his storytelling world of brutal observations of small-town American life.
The Guardian summed Felice up perfectly “Each song somehow sounds like a classic, each live performance suggesting we are in the presence of a rare, fiery brilliance.”
With several gentle singalongs, including The Morning I Get To Hell, Felice lightened the mood from his dark lyrics. He joked he’d written one happy song out of 800 but with self-deprecating humour and a laid-back drawl he quickly rescinded that observation.
Top tracks included Radio Song, which he contributed to the movie Three Billboards Outside Missouri, American Song, Union Street and, appropriately, They’d Hang Upon My Every Word.
A highlight was the staggering Don’t Wake The Scarecrow, with it’s brutal lyrics and quietly menacing delivery. Felice stopped mid-song to explain the term “C note” from the song as a 100 dollar bill. This didn’t disrupt the flow but drew you ever closer to his world.
Talking of brutal lyrics try these for size from Union Street:
You were the prettiest girl in town
But your ma was a druggy and she kicked you around
And everyone knew the word on the street
Knew she was easy
Your ma was easy
So meet me there in the parking lot
In that part of town that Jesus forgot
And bring those pills you stole from your mom
New York Times was requested by a member of the audience. Felice responded by playing it but before he did so he sharply challenged the audience member to recite the first line. Someone else helped the guy out which was fortunate as Simone Felice is definitely someone that you do not mess with.
If the above sounds like it was a downbeat evening, the reality was far from that. Felice smiled, joked and laughed throughout, twice saying “I love you guys” (the feeling from the audience was mutual) and upgrading his drink to a “quality” gin and tonic as laughingly said he is “more refined” now (at the ripe old age of 43).
There was awe in the room in the presence of such rare and fiery brilliance. Folk music lives on with Simone Felice.
Words and Live Photo: Chaz Brooks