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Bittersweet live on the road

David Rhodes at the Colos-Saal, Aschaffenburg (GER) on May 03, 2010

On May 03 David Rhodes played the third show of his current tour in Aschaffenburg – and the first on which he plays as a headliner and without a band. After more than thirty years of concert experience with Random Hold, several other artists and mainly with Peter Gabriel this must have been a new feeling. The more so since with David there were only as many people in the audience as are usually backstage with Peter Gabriel. In Aschaffenburg some thirty people had come, which is usually a disaster, but the good mood in front of and on the stage would not suffer from it.

The Swedish band Paintbox opened for him; they are his support throughout the tour. The shows are something new for them, too, because they have not played in Germany before. The trio – guitar, drums and cello/bass/singer – played a good show. They sound very pop and polished on CD, but their live performance is more interesting because it is rougher and more expressive. After about an hour they cleared the Colos-Saal stage for David Rhodes.

David plugged in his Macbook, briefly went backstage and then returned in jeans, t-shirt and Birkenstocks with his electric guitar to kick off his show. Those who had listened to David’s album Bittersweet before knew it is a band album and that an interpretation with guitar and vocals only would sound different. It must be said right away that David played a very good version. Assisted by technology he accompanied himself with guitar loops he would record during the song and play back when needed while he played another part or a solo. As was to be expected the set consisted of songs from Bittersweet (available on the tour, the official release follows a month later) , but he also played three unknown songs that are not on the CD. The set was as follows:

All I Know ... began with a longer intro and seemed more monotonous than on the album.

Two People ... great interpretation with a wild ending (three or four guitar loops on top of each other).

Crazy Jane ... simpler than on CD, but performed very emotional without any loops

Reality Slips ... a mix of the version from the album with lots of loops and calmer moments.

Down By The River ... like Crazy Jane this is a reduced version with very soulful vocals.

If It Could Only Be That Easy ... continues the speed of the previous song before it turns “wild” with rough guitar sounds.

Monster Monster ... follows without a break and without the creaking strings at the beginning. After a long intro and a quiet part David brought out the “monster” in an extremely rough and loud chorus before begging it at the end even more imploringly than on CD to vanish.

Be Mine ... is, like the following two songs, not on Bittersweet (which I found surprising – David’s repertoire points at another album) but it is by no means discard. Calm sounds make up the first half of the song before David demonstrates again that he can really rock out.

Waggle Dance ... was introduced by David when he explained that he has developed an interest in bees and beekeeping and that that is where the song came from. If you expected a gently humming song you were disappointed: Rough electric guitar is a dominant element, contrasted by soulful vocals and many loops.

Ship Of Fools ... is quiet again, with some loops and David’s gentle vocals. Two instrumental bits with electric guitars loosen up the song.

One Touch ... was from Bittersweet again, but you had to listen very closely to recognize it, for David gave the song a very different and interesting form full of loops and very intense solos. David then thanked the audience, left the stage and returned for

Bittersweet ... the night’s only encore. David played the song in a very simple, calm and emotional way, like Crazy Jane or Down By The River – perhaps even more emotional than on the CD. He thanked everybody again amidst big applause and cheers and finished his show.

With this live program David has shown that he has really deserved his place in Peter Gabriel’s band – and more than that he also proves that he is an excellent songwriter and singer. Apart from the rather small audience there is nothing negative I could say about the show. Of course there are always some people that go “yeah well, but…” who would have like to hear David play with a full band and who found the solo show perhaps a bit boring. No question, this would have been interesting too. But the financial risk would have been larger and the line-up would not have guaranteed bigger ticket sales. It was a compromise, but I think it was a very good one. If you found the show boring you are no Rhodes fan. David played all of Bittersweet except for There’s A Fine Line, and he played three new songs. One could not ask for anything more, and for me it was a very very good concert.

by Helmut Janisch (also photos)

translated by Martin Klinkhardt


David Rhodes - tour dates 2010

David Rhodes - Bittersweet - album review