Last night I headed into London again to see Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay perform at the Green Note. If you’ve read some of my previous reviews, you’ll know I’m a big fan of the venue and I was really looking forward to the gig. If honest, I’d only listened to a handful of songs from Brennen and Noel but I had it on good advice that the gig would be a good one, and I certainly wasn’t let down!
Unusually, there was no support act for the gig, although having grabbed a copy of the set list beforehand, I could see why, the number of songs a large one. The duo arrived on the stage around eight thirty and started off with “Only Other Person in the Room” and it was immediately clear that Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay have something of a timeless charm. They stand either side of a retro-style round microphone and their gentle but brilliant harmonies grab your attention and hold it.
The second song was “Pulled the Rug” where Noel took lead vocals. This song, like a number of the songs throughout the night had a nice element of humor, where the crowd was laughing out loud at times, while the rapturous applause at the end was matched with a sea of smiles. ‘Analog’ was up next, this time Brennen taking the lead, a song which had a similar message to ‘Automatic’ by Miranda Lambert – this being one of my favorite numbers of the night.
One of the best features of the night was the stories between the songs, many of which were about Texas. This particularly appealed to me, much of my country music listening and education coming from Texas radio stations I’ve found online, so I couldn’t get enough of this! Songs like “Reel Cowboy”, “Disappearing Texas” and “Goodbye Texas Hello Port Artúr” were all fine examples of this, with great intros that really added to the equally great songs.
“Pills” was a real highlight for me, a song which Noel said was written after he came across an old acquaintance after many years, who had failed to recognise him. After initially feeling offended, he realised that the guy’s head was frazzled due to long term drug use and the song puts the story into words brilliantly.
There were also some quite random songs, one sung from the perspective of a dog who is left in a car, yearning to go for a walk, while Brennen sung a song about wishing to be an old lady. Neither of these sound like they would work, but each was fantastic.
“Saginaw” was a brilliant Lefty Frizzell cover (Brennen Leigh has covered an entire album of Lefty Frizzell songs), while “Steam Thresher’s” was another song that really transported you away from Camden Town and took you to a rural America that you might never get to see. The final song of the night (before a much welcome encore) was sung in Mexican and this was simply beautiful.
It’s very unusual for me to go to a gig where I had literally only heard one or two numbers before, but I have to say the whole gig was a joy from start to finish. With a set in excess of twenty songs, there was no point in the evening when the entire audience wasn’t completely tuned in – Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay a perfect act for the intimate setting of the Green Note. If they tour again, I’ll be first in line to grab a ticket – last night they gained a new fan.