Jim White @ Union Chapel, London 07.06.12

“I always wanted to whistle like that......I just have to scream like a girl when I want attention.” Jim White's opening line to an older crowd that gave up a huge reception for him as he arrived on stage in the beautiful Union Chapel in Islington. One of the most perfect looking gig venues probably in London, the stage had been low lit and the band looked impressive silhouetting against the pulpit and stained glass windows above. As he took the lead position, he cut a worn figure with an experienced look, dressed in a baggy shirt topped with a trucker cap. Jim was accompanied by two members of Belgium band Stanton comprising of Nic on double bass player and multi guitarist Geert Hellings. Jim produced their record last year (something he expresses to being very proud of in his recent Bearded interview) and picked them up to support him on stage as part of this European tour.

Jun 7th, 2012 at Union Chapel, London / By James Ingham
Jim White Musically, the performance demonstrated a range of styles and influences held together with a strong salute to traditional country values. Jim on numerous times complimented his backing band and they truly were fantastic players, demonstrating all sorts of experimental techniques on their instruments from forward reverse rolling on the banjo to rubbing wet fingers across the body of the double bass to create a big reverberant sound. The band could confidentially move from trad. country into almost alternative jazz sounds to accompany one of Jim White's stories. This created a beautifully spontaneous feel to the whole occasion that was only let down by the accompaniment of a backing track drummer rather than the real thing which reminded us just how well rehearsed the whole performance was.

The songs themselves presented many different aspects of Jim's musicality from his older tracks like ‘If Jesus Drove a Motor Home’ which sounds heavily infused by alternative artists such as Mr E and Beck, his tribute to Kimya Dawson from the Moldy Peaches from his previous record ‘Keep It Meaningful You All’, right up to a wide selection of tracks from the new album; namely his single choice based on the fact it's faster than all the others ‘Infinite Mind’. The new music comparatively does sound poppier then previous records with warm country backing vocals and soaring guitar solos, more influenced by some of his country heroes: John Prine and Jesse Winchester. In his interview, Jim White professes to moving away from the 'verse chorus' mould and this is true to some extent on the more experimental tracks and with his story based songs, but really, the majority of tracks in the set from the new record are typically structured making them stylistic to his roots and ultimately enjoyable for the crowd.

To this extent the crowd certainly enjoyed it. “Thanks for coming, I just got off a dismal American tour. No one came to any shows! I thought it'd be the same here.” announced Jim White to the packed out Union Chapel. The audience were hugely appreciative of the show which is testament to the quality of the music, the performance, Jim's character and personal lyrics. Throughout the show, Jim gave explanations to the back stories behind his songs, the ways they came about and linked experiences to the words, and giving us this insight into the perspectives of the music helped emphasise the personality of Jim and what he was saying. Nearly all the songs performed where describing events in his life or situations he had been a part of and living a life like his, he has a large collection experiences to write about. It's this level of honesty that makes him such an appealing artist as he makes his stories personal, relatable and engaging.

His character was one of the main factors in creating such a successful show. At the risk of sounding gimicky, his constant digs about the lack of money he had, the struggles of being a fairly unknown musician, the selling of flea market clothing to raise money to even selling the shirt of his own back and cap from the gig to raise money for charity made him all the more real. This he emphasised further by standing at the back of the hall after the show to auction his shirt and also meet his fans, up close and personal. It's not often you see that, too often bands in smaller venues slink off and disappear and this was impressive to both Bearded and the crowd that waited to meet him.

Overall, Bearded thoroughly enjoyed the show, the level of musicianship was staggering, the songs were good and Jim was a great front man. The only aspect that was frustrating was the lack of drummer, the backing track did to some extent take away from the spontaneity of the performance. Other than that though, it was a warm and welcoming experience. Jim White now has a few more dates in the UK including The Library at The HMV Institute in Birmingham, before heading to the mainland to play two concerts in Holland before returning back across the Atlantic for the Calgary Folk Festival in Canada. His album Where It Hits You released earlier is available on digital release, vinyl and CD.