I do not have a single decent photograph from last night’s Brothers Osborne show. I borrowed the one above. Blame the blurriness on the drinking blame the drinking on the blurriness… Once again I tried to instigate my ‘sip of whiskey every time whiskey is mentioned in a song’ drinking game, but somewhere between opener Kendell Marvell’s gravelly ballads of whiskey and heartbreak, and the headliners’ new number of Weed, Whiskey and Willie I remembered why that game never works at a country music gig. Concert venue bars do not pour big enough measures.
Lack of photographic evidence aside, last night was electrifying. I have been playing this band’s music almost daily for over a year now with the new album Port Saint Joe spawning instant classics, but last night demonstrated how a brilliant show is about more than just brilliant songs.
From reverence at opener Kendell Marvel – who has earned his strips as a songwriter, penning tunes for Gary Allan, Chris Stapleton and Brothers Osborne themselves – to manic elation when the main act took the stage. The floor was packed by the time we arrived 45 minutes before the first set and, as is unique to country gigs, faces ranged from teenage to geriatric; from fresh-faced wannabe cowgirls to bearded bikers. With the first song, their recent rousing single, rousing anthem of break ups and tequila Shoot Me Straight, we were a full volume crowd. Our singing along was encouraged except in 21 Summer when we realised we should probably shut up and let TJ Osborne (my goodness, that voice!) do his thing.
If I’d just wanted to hear an album, I’d stay at home, where there’s uninterrupted sound and cheaper beer. Instead Brothers Osborne delivered their brand of country rock ‘n’ soul with fresh takes on the songs we were screaming for, like an unpredicted guitar interlude in the midst of It Ain’t My Fault. This was just one of the many, many perfectly timed (i.e. not self-indulgent) moments to showcase John’s incredible prowess on the strings; another was a guitar-led instrumental of a Beatles song. We rounded off the evening with a sing-along of a surprising, uplifting cover.
Throughout the night there were the revealing moments of chat, the flashes of personality which make seeing your favourite artists live worthwhile. I learnt that, perhaps due to his British wife, John’s got the English accent down;
“Every time you guys say PawnShop it sounds like you’re saying porn shop”.
He’s not wrong. They also boldly took requests. One, Heart-shaped Locket(which I like to think they would not have played if not for me shouting it clearly above the furore), came easily. But another request, laid-back album track A Little Bit Trouble, was more of a risk. At first, TJ was reluctant “We literally haven’t played this song live in… ever” but some goading from his brother (“Let’s be men!”) meant we were in for a first. Despite T.J.’s reluctace (“Don’t film this!”) they nailed it and should probably add it to future sets.
So now, history is repeating itself. Just over a year ago I hardly knew of this band’s music. They were a small names on the main stage at C2C festival, but during that attention commanding set I rushed online to secure tickets for their own show the next night in a Camden basement bar. This time, at their first UK headline tour, I jumped online straightaway to check out tickets for their return later in the year before that undoubtedly sells out like many of the shows on this tour have. The Brothers Osborne are back touring in the UK in November at a different selection of cities and most surprisingly at a rock festival in Porthcawl. See you there?
Oh, and here’s one of my best photos from last night.