Tuesday 9th May. The Borderline, London. Andrew Combs. Flying solo tonight at the newly refurbished Borderline.
Before the gig review some observations about the renovations. The Borderline is a small iconic London music venue that has played host to most major bands over the past forty years. Its cosy environment led to some amazing gigs and it is one of my most visited haunts. The tiny cramped stage with its famous western style logo (recently covered with velvet curtain!) on the back wall led to intimate performances with the tightly packed crowd. So, the positives, the floor has been opened out creating more space with the clumsy raised area also gone, the toilets have improved 1000% if that’s such a thing, the bar has been lengthened and moved to the left side as you walk down the stairs, at last some decent beer, the opening of a funky secret entrance on the right of the stage and it’s all had a good lick of albeit black paint. The negatives, its lost all its character and heritage. The Borderline logo has been painted over, all the framed lists of bands that played there have been removed from the entrance and stairs airbrushing all this venue’s history in one foul swoop. Maybe I’m just being sentimental but at a time when so many classic London venues have closed in recent years we are probably just left with the 100 Club as a living memorial to musical history. I understand the need to renew and modernise but surely there’s room to reflect the history of the venue too. All that said overall the refurbishment makes visiting the venue a more pleasurable experience but I can’t help feeling that a little part of my musical DNA has died.
Onto the gig. I arrived a little late as neither the Borderline or DHP Family feel inclined to share stage times on Twitter, just using their social media for advertising new events and not helping the punters with some actual useful information. Caught the tail end of Paul Cauthen though who looks like a real talent. Great voice.
I have been a fan of Andrew Combs for some time and he is constantly name checked by other artists I have seen. I first saw him live last year, solo acoustic supporting Margo Price and his short set then was a real treat.
Combs is a magnificent songwriter switching between storytelling, observational and groove based tunes with a bit of politics thrown in for good measure. There’s a shout out for Trump with reference to walls etc. I place him in the highest echelons of songwriters around at the moment in the same company as Isbell, Simpson, Moreland, Stapleton, etc.
Primarily here in support of his excellent new album ‘Canyons of my mind’ the set draws from all three of his albums. He has a relaxed, engaging style that endears him to an already rapt audience and is comfortable with those sometime awkward between song interludes. The three-piece band are good and understated and provide a beautiful backdrop to the front man lending delicate harmonies throughout the set. Its only for the final twenty minutes that they really let rip.
It’s a set of three halves with Combs on acoustic for the bulk, then solo for a short spell with the excellent cowrite with Brent Cobb ‘Rainy Day Music’ and finally strapping on the Stratocaster for the finale building the sound as the evening progressed, especially so on the singalong ‘Emily’. He has a great vocal range demonstrated superbly on the haunting ‘Hazel’, his wife’s favourite song and set closer tonight.
The crowd are enthusiastic and a very British heckle of ’Outstanding’ after one track brings a smile to Combs. It neatly sums up the evening. A faultless ninety minutes played with no frills or gimmicks, just quality all the way.
Keep on rockin y'all