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LIVE: Dan Stuart and Tom Heyman – rise @ bluebird, Acomb, York, 17/03/2024

“Yeah, I guess I gotta do this…”

Having just made his faltering way to the little stage in the corner of the Bluebird Bakery and with a certain faux-ennui and an undoubted world-weariness these are the first words that Dan Stuart speaks this evening. You are already beginning to fear that this could be another high-wire-without-a-net experience with the songwriter artist from Tucson, Arizona, much like when I first saw him in concert in Leeds nearly 12 years ago and he had seemed on the verge of total physical and emotional collapse.

But Dan Stuart then begins a long, rambling and quite hilarious narrative about the wisdom of his decision to return to live in the States after spending many years south of the border in Mexico and you quickly realise he is now, to use the therapist’s vernacular, in a much better place. He is in good voice too as evidenced by his delightful interpretation of Steve Forbert’s 1978 song ‘It Isn’t Gonna Be That Way.’ 

As Dan Stuart is to tell us later on, he lives in the last century. And he certainly does present as a man from another time and place. With his straggly silver hair, matching goatee beard, and white fedora hat he bears more than a passing resemblance to one of the most famous figures of the American Old West, Buffalo Bill. And his music embraces earlier rock’n’roll, country, and blues. None of this Americana shit for Dan Stuart, a genre he dismisses as being “a wagon wheel chandelier.”

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Dan Stuart

‘The Day William Holden Died’ is deeply moving even if you know nothing about the gruesome circumstances surrounding the untimely passing of the great American actor. It is wonderfully counterbalanced by the lively ‘Rock & Roll Disease’ where Dan Stuart’s guitar is fed through his $50 Sonic Cake guitar pedal. Stuart says if he was a guitar pedal he would be a Sonic Cake, given it does 11 different things, but none of them well. 

During ‘Last Century Blues’ he readily admits to losing his way a little bit, something which may have prompted him to invite Tom Heyman to join him on stage a little earlier than had been originally planned. Heyman had already provided a sterling support slot, the bulk of his set having been drawn from his latest album, 24thStreet Blues. A concept album, of sorts, the record reflects upon the hyper-gentrification of the Mission District in San Francisco where the singer, songwriter, and guitarist has lived for the past 25 years. 

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Tom Heyman

Perhaps emboldened by having Heyman by his side, Dan Stuart proceeds to play first ‘No Free Lunch Today’ and then ‘Hair of the Dog’ reminding us that he had been one of the founding members of Green On Red, a band often associated with the psychedelic explosion of the Paisley Underground in 1980’s Los Angeles. 

Two more Green On Red songs follow –‘Jimmy Boy’ and a blistering ‘Time Ain’t Nothing’ – as Stuart and Heyman dovetail together perfectly. The duo then end with the 70’s country rockers Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen’s ‘Seeds and Stems (Again)’ before a lady in the audience approaches the stage and asks for her song of choice, to which the two men duly oblige with a riotous reading of ‘Never Going Back To Tucson.’ 

They’d clearly enjoyed themselves. We’d certainly enjoyed ourselves. It was just one of those really great evenings.

Photos: Simon Godley

More photos of Dan Stuart and Tom Heyman at rise @ Bluebird Bakery.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.