Dan Stuart, former wild frontman of Green On Red has been sadly missing from action for several years. Despite occasional sightings in the mid 2000’s with (successful) reunions of Green On Red and Danny and Dusty there’s only been the occasional low key album release. A few months back a new release The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings was announced and then a European tour which mercifully included Glasgow on the short itinerary.
And so it was that a few of the faithful (too few by far) gathered in the bar at King Tuts to see and hear the enigmatic Stuart, lured by the legend and perhaps somewhat nonplussed by the recent stories of his incarceration and subsequent escape from a New York psychiatric institution, his settlement in Oaxaca, Mexico and his current hook up with an Italian country rock band.
Sacri Cuori played a short opening set and immediately it was clear that country rock does them a grave injustice. A four piece they unveiled an astounding palette of sounds that ranged from surf and Duane Eddy type guitar to Nino Rota cinematic whirls with Joe Meek electronica and superb percussion to take the audience on a trip through some weird places and left us feeling as if we were in the middle of Jodorowsky’s El Topo. Guitarist Antonio Gramentieri tackled the introductions informing us that local girl Isobel Campbell sings on their latest album Rosario and pretty much had us eating out of his hand by the end of their all too short set.
Mr. Stuart then came on and within a few minutes of his superb, humorous (with some barbed stabs at a few sacred alt country cows) introduction any possible doubts about his mental health were dispelled. Revelling in his banter he was a hit before even striking a note but it was clear from his opening song, a solo rendition of an old Green On Red song, Death and Angels, that he was totally in control. Delivered as a lament with his voice a warm croon and some fine guitar picking it was miles away from the old band version. Another Green On Red song You Couldn’t Get Arrested with Stuart joined by Christian Ravaglioli on accordion was next and it was spellbinding. A sly dig at Mick Jagger and his abandonment of his sixties Chelsea drug store decadence one could have heard the proverbial pin drop as the audience paid full attention; we could have listened to the solo Stuart all night. From here on in however Stuart bared his fangs and with the assistance of Sacri Cuori delivered a blistering set of tunes, old and new that featured his sardonic and sneering vocals while also offering a glimpse into his love and passion for Spanish and Mexican tinged ballads with an edge. Sixteen Ways kicked it off while amped up renditions of Zombie For Love and Gravity Talks showed that he still has some fire in his belly. Two Lovers Waiting to Die swung mightily with a heavy Neil Young swagger.
Along with the back catalogue Stuart unveiled several songs from the new album with What Are You Laughing About ? delivered almost like a Joe Strummer thrash, fittingly enough as it’s a translation of a poem by Mario Benedetti, a Uruguayan poet who had to flee right wing political persecution, Strummer would approve. Gringo Go Home utilised the exotic sounds of Sacri Cuori to their utmost as Stuart channelled Lee Hazlewood on what appears to a satire on the perceived dangerousness of Mexico for visitors while on Clean White Sheet the Joe Meek type organ exhilarated as the band went stratospheric towards the end.
Overall Stuart seems to a man at the top of his game, proud of his past and rightly proud of the new material, if you get a chance to see him then we would heartily recommend it.
We should mention the two local opening acts. Eilidh Hadden and her band were a nice whispy folk tinged crew with Hadden using a tape loop at times to multiply her guitar playing while Danielle Tonner delivered a solo set of covers and some of her own songs. Both acts delivered their material in good Scots voices, something we seem to be seeing more of these days.