Damien Jurado – City Varieties Music Hall, Leeds, 25/02/2020

Damien Jurado – City Varieties Music Hall, Leeds, 25/02/2020


Towards the end of his spellbinding solo set here tonight, Damien Jurado says “I’ve had a good time.” He pauses and then adds “I know it doesn’t look like I did” before what might pass for the faintest hint of a smile crosses his lips. His lugubrious demeanour and the loneliness and romantic devastation reflected in many of his songs give the firm impression of a man who takes little or no pleasure from life. Yet beneath this often bleak and sombre exterior lies a man of great wit, warmth and charm. Observing him after the show interacting with members of the audience and in also speaking to him myself, these positive characteristics can all be quite easily affirmed.

The prolific Seattle, Washington singer-songwriter is over here in the UK as part of a wider European tour following the release of his 14th studio album In the Shape of a Storm and in advance of his next album which is due to land in May. He opens with a trilogy of songs from his last record – the album’s imperious title track, ‘South’ and ‘Lincoln’. “There’s nothing left to hide” he repeats on the latter’s refrain, those sentiments capturing the deep emotional, and painful honesty of Damien Jurado’s songwriting and the stark intimacy of his delivery.

‘I Am Still Here’ is undeniably haunting, and like many of Damien Jurado’s songs its inherent cautious optimism is very quickly dashed. The ensuing ‘What Were The Chances’ – also taken from his sixth studio album, the 2006 release ‘And Now That I’m in Your Shadow’ – ramps up the sense of emptiness and the feeling that in Jurado’s world it is always 2 o’clock in the morning and all of his telephone calls remain unanswered.

The axis upon which the set spins is what Damien Jurado describes as a “three-papered song” as he once more shuffles the reams of lyrics from which he selects songs at random. The as-yet-untitled song – Jurado tells me later that he only wrote it a couple of weeks ago – assumes epic proportions in much the same way that ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ does on Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. The fact that it is not even destined for Jurado’s forthcoming album is further testament to the immense capacity and quality of his songwriting.

Birds Tricked Into The Trees’ will feature on the new record, though. It is the first single to be taken from it and whilst the title is inspired by a Tom and Jerry cartoon and the tune possesses what is by Jurado’s standards a relatively jaunty melody, this does mask a familiar sense of deception and loss. He ends with ‘Day after Day’ bringing to a close what is an incredibly heartwarming performance and a powerful demonstration of what can be fully achieved by a guitar and a voice.

Photos: Simon Godley

More photos from this show can be found HERE

The 2020 tour of the UK and Ireland continues:

26 Feb – GLASGOW Òran Mór
27 Feb – BELFAST Ulster Sports Club
28 Feb – DUBLIN Liberty Hall Theatre
01 Mar – FOLKESTONE Quarterhouse

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