Not everything is quite as it seems in the world of Daniel Romano. From the merchandise table he stares from the cover of his 2013 album Come Cry With Me dressed in a Stetson hat and a spectacular pink and brown Nudie suit. He looks part Porter Wagoner, part riverboat gambler. He sings knowingly about relationship breakdown, heartache and trauma – the staple diet of many a top country tune – but concedes these songs are not born of his own personal experiences. Yet despite this and repeated attempts by most everyone to try and bracket his music as modern country, the man from Southern Ontario in Canada just plain refuses to be pigeon-holed.
In a recent interview Romano said “I’m not a fan of being labelled…” and as a pre-show playlist heavy on Françoise Hardy and Serge Gainsbourg will confirm, it is apparent that he and his music are out to defy simple categorisation. It soon becomes abundantly clear that he does not want to be simply another member of another club that he wishes to have absolutely no part of.
Dressed in a grey hoodie and black motorcycle jacket, Romano tonight presents more like a New York street punk than any Nashville troubadour and his music initially reflects exactly the way that he looks. Over the sea with his three-piece band The Trilliums, he is in Europe essentially to promote his new album, Mosey. Such is his productivity – this is Romano’s fifth full-length release in as many years and the record will be accompanied by a simultaneous, totally separate album called Ancient Shapes – he describes Mosey as “the greatest hits…of the last year.”
The band duly opens with ‘Valerie Leon’, the first track from Mosey. Partially inspired by the early 70’s British horror film, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, the song is an observation on how something apparently so bad can actually be really good. Stripped here of its lush studio strings and mariachi horns, it is a louche, lascivious rocker. It is thrilling; it is exciting and has an essential air of pure emotional detachment. It is everything that great rock’n’roll should be.
‘I Had To Hide Your Poem in a Song’ and ‘Toulouse’ – both taken from the new record, with the latter featuring fellow Canadian Kay Berkel reprising Rachel McAdams’ studio duet role – owe far more to Lou Reed and Tom Verlaine than ever they do Merle Haggard and Gram Parsons. But for all that they arouse some thoughts about a ‘70s New York revivalism, the feelings that they generate move way beyond mere nostalgia. For these special moments in which they exist they inspire a true belief in the here and now.
‘One Hundred Regrets Avenue’ – where the band exit the stage leaving Romano to stand alone at the microphone accompanied only by a pre-recorded piano track – is revealed as a glorious torch song. ‘You’d Think I’d Think’ and ‘Something Keeps Me Coming Back For More’ are magnificent country-blues tearjerkers that lie somewhere between George Jones and Exile on Main Street-period Rolling Stones but such is their poignancy and power they step well outside of that simple classification.
Daniel Romano and The Trilliums sign off with a double-encore of ‘New Love’ and ‘I’m Gonna Teach You’. Just like Romano himself their impact is immediate and shows just why he will never be a part of what he refers to as the “soft generation”, an age in which art is routinely diluted to a point where it runs the risk of being standardised. Daniel Romano lives in another musical world altogether and for some brief moments tonight it was an honour and privilege to be part of it.
Photo credit: Simon Godley
More photos from this show can be found HERE
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