Lucero: The Deaf Institute, Manchester – live review
Lucero play a storming set in Manchester. Ian Critchley dances.
“Recommend me a good whisky.”
They’d ran out of Jameson and the man at the side of me couldn’t decide what to take instead.
“Makers Mark is fine. Or Wild Turkey.”
I hadn’t had a drink in nearly four months. I wasn’t planning on doing tonight. Though, after ordering a glass of water and watching everyone down glasses of dark liquids from the seats at the back my +1 and I had chosen, I really felt as if I should. It was as if God was playing another cruel trick. Not just making me want to drink, but making me feel wrong for not doing. Because to watch Lucero without booze is surely sacrilege, isn’t it?
Having not seen Sam Russo play for so long, it was a delight to find out that not much had changed about the man. Though once again sporting a full beard that would put Hemingway to shame, his music was still unravelling yarns about lost loves and broken down relationships with such genuine sincerity that his candour alone separates him from the droves of soppy singer/songwriters that litter the music scene today. And, of course, that voice. As his set unfolded more and more of the audience became ensnared in the net of Russo’s soft, mellifluous croon and, with the use of an audience participatory segment involving wolf whistles and sex grunts, by the end he had hooked and captured every single one of them.
We’d been sat next to two men who had been working through their drinks with huge enthusiasm. We had chosen the back, sitting on the raised theatre steps, to observe the entire evening, from the band to the disco balled room itself which looked as if it had been pulled from the pages of The Great Gatsby. But the two drunks next to me had different plans, and within the first seconds of Lucero‘s set they had hoisted us both to our feet and pulled us into their inebriated dance routine.
The band made good use of the small stage area, tearing through songs such as Kiss The Bottle, On My Way Downtown, and Bikeriders, before decrescendo-ing into a two man operation consisting of Ben Nichols and keys man, Rick Steff. The duo picked fruits from the bush of Lucero’s back catalogue and sprinkled these with a couple from Nichols’ solo record, The Last Pale Light In The West.
“Can someone get me a whisky?” Ben asked, producing a note from his wallet and handing it to one of the fans on the front line. The stripped down Lucero continued to play with Ben singing his heartfelt lyrics over the twinkle of Steff’s keys. One of our new found drunken friends had observed the transaction for Ben’s whisky and took umbrage in the fact the bar lady had charged for the drink. He began to boo her at great volume but, across the silent stillness of the room during one of the evening’s most sombre songs, it sounded as if his anger was directed towards the stage. I spent the next few moments with my face in my hands, waiting for the awkwardness to pass.
The set finished with Like Lighting and, remembering my interview with bassist John. C Stubblefield, I watched as the spirit of Phil Lynott was channelled into those four strings. The gig was done and even though the band had played well over an hour, it had all seemed so short, the time passed too quick.
We bumped into the two drunks again outside. They thanked us for dancing with them, for really letting loose. Because according to these two, other than a few small pockets, the audience had been “a bunch of boring pricks”.
All words by Ian Critchley. More writing by Ian on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.