The Lexington, Islington | July 18th
In this age of perpetually recycled musical inspiration (a trap that never seems to escape the same few clichéd decades) it’s nice to come across a character with a little more substance than the skin-deep identibands of each fleeting generational fad. Jonathan Wilson isn’t so much an artist with an identifiably vintage sound, as a man born wholly in the wrong decade.
Okay, at 37, he wasn’t exactly born in the wrong decade – perhaps just making music in the wrong one. Although, for that we should give thanks, for in these frequently insubstantial times his unequivocally 70s-informed blend of psychedelic rock-cum-jazz-cum-folk is a tangible oasis of authenticity amid an arid desert of nostalgic pretence.
Tonight, flanked by his four-strong cohort on the cosy stage of The Lexington, Wilson cuts quite a figure. Hair defiantly uncut, a beard full of stories, his dusky voice and effortless, nonchalant demeanour are the perfect launchpad for the band’s notably indulgent performance.
With instruments set firmly to ‘cosmic jam’, tracks like Natural Rhapsody – already impressive, at eight-and-a-half minutes long on the album – are spun into truly gargantuan spells of proggy soloist improvisation, with every band member flexing their musicianship muscle to formidable, if a little decadent, effect.
Standout tracks Desert Raven, Gentle Spirit and Can We Really Party Today? all receive a rapturous and endearingly animated response from the crowd, made up (it has to be said) of largely 40-to-50-something-year-old males. Equally well received are the handful of new tracks aired on the night, serving up a promising taste of the forthcoming second album, due for release early next year.
However, it’s not until the final track that the night gets its truly crowning moment: a nothing-short-of-epic 20-minute rendition of Valley Of The Silver Moon. It’s easily one of the most spine-tingling musical experiences we’ve witnessed this year, and an apt reminder that, as far as music has come in the past four decades, sometimes it takes a man from another time to remind us what we’ve really been missing.
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Words: Bear Gwills