American Music Club/Richmond Fontaine
QUEEN ELIZABETH HALL LONDON
Sunday May 23, 2004
Richmond Fontaine take to the stage looking like they’ve walked out of Bob Rafelson’s Five Easy Pieces. Led by Willy Vlautin, the kind of West Coast human tumbleweed usually found roaming bars and used bookstores from Tijuana to Seattle, sporting a US Army jacket and ripped jeans, a prized book of Raymond Carver stories tucked safely away in a dirty dufflebag, Richmond Fontaine make surging, impassioned American guitar music about life and how not to live it.
Tonight, they don’t put a foot wrong, underscoring the much deserved fuss over their latest, breakthrough album, Post To Wire, surely the best Americana discovery since Whiskeytown unveiled their blue zenith, Strangers Almanac.
As if we weren’t punch-drunk enough after Fontaine, next up are the newly reformed American Music Club, back after a 10-year hiatus. Any fears of hammy reunion syndrome are gone by the first glorious chorus of “Johnny Mathis’ Feet”, Mark Eitzel singing his heart out, flanked by ace dresser Vudi, one of the most underrated guitarists of the post-punk era, fellow original members Tim Mooney and Dan Pearson and new recruit Marc Capelle?a kind of theatrical, jittery Liberace-on-speed, handling keyboards and trumpet.
The superb songs premiered from the forthcoming new album are alternately beefy doomsday waltzes or hook-laden atmospheric offbeat pop nuggets projected against that trademark wall of sound. Of the oldies, there are many: “Gary’s Song”, “Nightwatchman”, “Firefly”, “Outside This Bar”, “If I Had A Hammer”, “Why Won’t You Stay?” and a furious, peaking “Sick Of Food”. Everybody knows by now that Mark Eitzel is one of the most gifted songwriters of his generation. Solo, he’s good. But with AMC, he really soars, the magic and the chemistry and the history giving him wings. Tonight wasn’t just a reunion show. It was all about Mark Eitzel going home. This band belongs together, as their stunning, incendiary set illustrated. For many of us, it was a homecoming, too, like seeing an old friend for the first time in a decade whose absence had left a gaping hole in our lives. After the show, all I could think was that the Pixies are going to have to leap through hoops to top this (see page 148). Welcome back, guys