James Walsh – Zermatt Unplugged, CH – 2010-04-15

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A very private concert awaited the audience when James Walsh (otherwise known from his band Starsailor) played a show at the unique club Vernissage for the Swiss Zermatt Unplugged festival.

The Vernissage is a wild mixture of live club, exhibition, cinema, bar and lounge, and was designed entirely by Zermatt-based sculpturer and artist Heinz Julen. It normally holds about 400 people, but was only half-filled for tonight’s show.

For the first few minutes of the concert people still tried to stay as far away from the stage as possible, but very soon everybody was making themselves comfortable by sitting down in relaxed semi-circle in front of the stage.

With that a very intimate atmosphere arose and James Walsh, armed with only an acoustic guitar and a piano, had to deliver the goods.

And he easily delivered, with a brilliant and very soulful performance and a well-balanced setlist. The timidness quickly fell off the audience, and sitting inside the Vernissage suddenly felt like sitting at a campfire, with someone playing old classics, while everybody else sings, claps and grooves along without caring about what they might look like to the eyes of an outsider.

And so of all the artists of this year James Walsh probably played the show that stayed the most true to the Zermatt Unplugged philosophy. His concert did just deliver all of what you might hope for when you go to an unplugged show, in terms of what both the artist and the audience might be up to.

The setlist featured a couple of new songs (Soul On Trial, Desert Rain, Long Way To Love) and a good lot of Starsailor classics (Silence Is Easy, Poor Misguided Fool and of course Four To The Floor).

The latter especially gained a lot of profile and intensity in their acoustic versions and also refreshingly lost some of the gravitas of their original arrangements.

Some convincing cover versions helped to raise and then keep the good mood, as James Walsh added a trace of the Eagles (Take It Easy), a touch of Neil Young (a couple of lines from Surfer Joe And Moe The Sleaze), a dash of Bruce Springsteen (some bars of Atlantic City) and of course the Stones by the spoonful (You Can’t Always Get What You Want) to an already great musical dinner.

Whether he was stomping across the stage playing guitar or hitting the more silent notes at the piano, he just always struck a chord with an audience that had come here from a long day on the slopes around the Matterhorn, and was subsequently quiet but still curious for something unique.

It takes a full-blooded entertainer to mix a brew this intense with the given ingredients. During the quiter passages, you could have heard the sound of every dropping bottle – if anybody had actually dropped one. But tonight’s audience was much too solemn and respectful for that.

Good Souls, already an established show-closer with Starsailor, marked a passionate finale that summed up everything that was great about this evening, and even came garnished with some lines from Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind.

All in all the concert offered a perfect symbiosis of sound, setting, light and atmosphere. The very clear and voluminous mix added as much to that as the unique interieur of the Vernissage:

Post-modern chandeliers, spiral stairs evoking memories of sci-fi movies, soft lights in warm colours over a well-stacked bar and excellent acoustics in almost every spot of the location – every mile you live away from this club is definitely one too many.

James Walsh revealed outstanding one-man-show qualities with his show at Zermatt Unplugged.

He wisely used the reduced arrangements to fill out the empty spaces with immediacy and intensity, and with this strategy easily won over the ears and hearts of even the most sceptical visitors to the show.

A challenge well handled. When a single man and his instrument succeeds to unify the crowd, handmade music is still the most fun.

After the show, James joined the party crowd at the Vernissage and spent a great deal of the night dancing and drinking with old and new fans and friends.

During the show he had already prophylactically warned everyone: “In the UK I’m known as a mild-mannered, clean living person, but everyone in Switzerland will think I’m an alcoholic…”

Review and photos: Björn Kahlenberg & Annemarie Jansen

S E T L I S T :

01. Lullaby
02. This Time
03. Tell Me It’s Not Over
04. Soul On Trial
05. Boy In Waiting
06. Alcoholic
07. Desert Rain
08. Poor Misguided Fool
09. Long Way To Love
10. Four To The Floor
11. Life
12. Take It Easy
13. You Can’t Always Get What You Want
14. Silence Is Easy
15. Good Souls / Empire State Of Mind

Posted by Bjoern   @   29 April 2010


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