This time of year presents a different backdrop to musicians and the gigs they play than those they would perform in summer. When the weather is bleak and bitter, the indoor gig resembles an invitation into an environment of both warmth and escape. The lack of sunlight and biting cold is replaced by stage lights and crowd jostling. However, if the performance is below par, the after-show retreat into the outside is made all the more profound and uncomfortable. As audience members were cramming through The Kazimier doors in both anticipation and desperation, it was resting on Jonathan Wilson to produce a gig befitting the warm, close-quarters interior of The Kazimier. Thankfully, tonight’s performance was anything but lukewarm.
Renowned for the mix of folk, blues and psychedelic influences sifting through Wilson’s sound, a quainter opening was beautifully orchestrated by the unassuming Sand Band. With more than a touch of influence from ethereal singer-songwriters in the vein of Bon Iver, the three-piece reeled you into their set via a mixture of drifting, sensual keys and delicate vocals. With an overriding sense of melancholy, the four walls of The Kazimier, as well as the balconies above the stage, were filled with notions of heartache and breakups. Nothing we hadn’t heard before, but Sand Band served very well to create a calm and collected atmosphere which was to serve Jonathan Wilson perfectly. Their low-key aesthetic similarly added to the mood, and upon departing the stage, it was as if a sedative had been administered throughout the crowd.
Wilson opened his set with the track ‘Fanfare,’ taken from his most recent album of the same name. The first half of the set was largely devoted to tracks from that LP, with ‘Illumination’ undoubtedly the highlight. The drowsy progressions and Wilson’s tender vocals induced waves of immersed dancing throughout, everyone in their own mind-set of quiet ecstasy. However, there was a definite sense that Wilson and his band were still warming up and getting into their groove. Everything felt slightly restrained, from the solos to the jams played in between tracks. Another gear was to be established.
This added dimension however was found around half way through the gig, and the band continued to fly through their set as the night went on. ‘Can We Really Party Today?’ taken from Wilson’s debut release Gentle Spirit saw the band at their most comfortable, with the build-up leaking into the audience and sending everyone into a folk-induced frenzy. The title track presented Wilson at his most vulnerable, the honest dimension to his vocals drawing in the audience and ensuring everyone was hanging on every last word he sang. Crowd contributions to the various guitar arrangements on ‘Desert Raven’ soared as the gap between audience and band both grew and dissolved in equal measure. We were part of the music, and it was impossible to not become fully immersed in the streams of gorgeous sound swelling to fill every nook and cranny The Kazimier had to offer.
As the venue began to empty and people were spilling into the cold air outside, the buzz of conversation and excitement would have given most the impression the gig was yet to start. Such was the strength of the injected satisfaction which Jonathan Wilson and his fantastic band offered tonight. They poured with excitement, joy and emotional intensity, and their psychedelic blues-rock never for a second faltered in stoking the fire of collective affection. It was a warm and memorable night in The Kazimier.