Richmond Fontaine - Dingwalls, London, 20/04/16

Richmond Fontaine – Dingwalls, London, 20/04/16

Having released their last ever album, You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing Back To in March this year, Richmond Fontaine performed this evening to a packed crowd at London Dingwalls knowing it would be one of the last opportunities to ever see the band.

Led by novelist and songwriter Willy Vlautin, the group ran through a set heavy on songs from that album to an audience receptive to the occasion.

Vlautin’s tales of kitchen sink dramas and down-and-outs can measure from the bleak to the strangely life affirming, but remain always poignant. Early number ‘I Got Off The Bus‘ drops the title of the most recent album in the second verse in such a way that as maudlin as it should be, there’s a knowing smile on many audience member’s faces.

Faster numbers such as ‘Lonnie‘ from 2009’s We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River allow the band to flex their muscles, creating more of a Power-Pop sound than the Americana of ‘Tapped Out In Tulsa‘ or ‘Always On the Ride’ which are emoted by a beautiful sliding electric guitar sound.

Vlautin’s voice is deceptively strong, and cuts above the band with his whiskey-tinged country twang – something he eludes to in announcing more than once that he wrote a song either about being drunk or when he was hungover.

Despite this emphasis on alcohol, his tracks are not clouded or opaque, but heavy in detail and clarity – allowing an audience in a small London club venue to relate to songs set against the ranches or cities of the Bukowski or Kerouac America that Vlautin illustrates into them.

Sometimes the more wistful, slower tracks in the set drag more than they do on the albums they hail from, and towards the end of the set it perhaps starts to feel a little bogged-down in these.

However, as a cult band’s last hurrah no one could have any qualms with Richmond Fontaine playing what they wanted in their 90 minute set, including an encore which more than revitalised the crowd. This included the song ‘Post To Wire‘, the title track from their 2003 masterpiece – an ode to domesticity and settling down. “I’ll overlook everything if you can overlook everything / I know you’re worn out but you know I’m worn out too” – Richmond Fontaine may be over, but as a writer, songwriter and performer, Willy Vlautin isn’t anywhere near worn out.

Image courtesy of the Richmond Fontaine Facebook page

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