October 11, 2016
The Green Note, London
“We have many things in common beyond a great first name and a pathological fear of the barber”
Joking that they were on ‘The Reverse Colonization’ tour, Red Moon Road’s triumphant London show was a welcome addition to an extensive circuit of Northern arts centres and libraries (aye, we have culture and literacy up there!)
The band’s two Daniels had quite a double-act going on. Introducing Private Lover about someone “who only loves you when no-one else is around,” they quipped “She’s as cold as ice”/”Well, she *is* from Canada.”
For all their jokes about musicians – “maybe some of you are musicians and you’ll never know what it feels like to move out”/”They’re not musicians, they have real careers!” – it was clear that Red Moon Road take two things seriously: musicianship and history.
Daniel Peloquin-Hopfner (the mustachioed Daniel) spoke of his musical heritage. His grandfather “was a *real* big deal in rural Manitoba,” touring village halls and barns to play the latest hits, sent from Toronto in sheet music form just days earlier. Certainly a talent to be proud of.
T’other Daniel, Daniel Jordan, spoke movingly about his grandmother’s escape through battle-scarred Europe as a young girl. The song Liesel Friedl, borne of her recollections of terror, survival and pure chance, was truly beautiful and fittingly oldworldly, with a galloping rhythm line echoing the two brave horses that saved two vulnerable children.
Liesel made it to safety in Canada and met another refugee striving to prosper in the New World. Jordan explained that his grandfather had “the archetypal spirit of the immigrant and a stereotyped German inability to relax.” Case in point? That time he took a holiday; “he built a deck, had a nap and went home.” The band’s tribute to his work ethic and family spirit, Planting Trees, was given a particularly touching airing here, just weeks after his death.
Recognising that they were brand new to the majority of the Tuesday night crowd, they slipped in a few classics. The Band cover was played with flair, flourish and passion, accompanied by support act Elliott Morris on guitar.
Then there were tributes to greats lost in 2016; their version of Changes was crystal clear so the crowd could “rehear the poetry of David Bowie.” The best was yet to come, though. Their banjo-bongo version of When Doves Cry was ridiculously good, even before Rattai’s kazoo solo.
It’s important to stress that the covers weren’t used as novelties, crutches or filler. Red Moon Road had more than enough stellar material of their own. I’ll Bend But I Won’t Break was inspired, in tone rather than lyric, by singer Sheena Rattai’s tenant from hell. Already a highlight of the album, it was a highlight of the show, too. As much as she joked about the situation, the abiding hurt from being let down and swindled clearly runs deep and was channelled into a fierce performance.
There was even poetry in the introductions. Breathing Slow was about “passing on the knowledge you gain from the mistakes you made.” The trio were particularly expressive about the extremes of weather, so inescapable in Canada. They spoke of the importance of music “when the nights grow long and the cold draws deep, ” and recounted a friend’s lament on the “sadness that comes with the changing of the seasons.” It’s not all dark and ice, of course. Words Of The Walls captured decades of young lives lived and changed in a single Winnipeg apartment, around a “square of sun” streaming through the window.
With winsome theatrics and poetics, deep harmonies and Rattai’s killer vocals, it was a night filled with talent and laughter. Easily one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. Don’t miss them when they return to the Old World.
Red Moon Road’s new record, Sorrows and Glories, is out now. Check out my full album review for full details.
“You’re the guitar man from the storm!”
The opening set by Elliot Morris could have stood up as stand up too. He recounted playing for a man he thought was a John Martyn fanatic…who turned out just to be a man named John Martin, thrilled to hear his name said on stage. Then the abiding memory of being on a boat at the age of 3 and seeking reassurance that boats never sink – that’s when his Dad chose to tell him about the Titanic disaster in great detail. Also, how he made it into local folklore in one small town – turns out they didn’t remember his name or his music but everyone knows of ‘the guitar man’ whose equipment blew away in the great storm.
You may not know his name but Morris has clearly been on the road honing his craft, especially the guitar work. End Of The World Blues had him beating percussive tones from his electro-acoustic like a folkier Newton Faulkner. Looking For Something That Isn’t There was a controlled love song about painful inevitabilities, and Some Things Just Aren’t Meant To Be was a lively “sea shanty about not liking something” – it’s just too hard to be a sailor when you don’t like the water.
Morris ended the set on a high with something you simply don’t see every day at The Green Note – a Michael Jackson megamix! He played in tribute to Rod Temperton’s recent death, and in celebration that such world-renowned songs came from Cleethorpes. Morris led the crowd in a soulful rendition of Billie Jean, rounded out with a few bars of Thriller.
Elliott Morris is crowdfunding to record his debut album, with some nifty incentives including a disposable camera of photos from the road and a Harris Tweed guitar strap! Check it out over on Pledge Music.
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