Gig review: Old Crow Medicine Show and Dave Rawlings Machine at the Troxy Theatre, London
Is it possible to have too much talent on a stage at once? Do you risk duelling banjos amid the multiple mandolins? To be honest, the only thing the audience risked at this show was experience overload. After all, when Dave Rawlings Machine is the “opening” act and they’ve roped in Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, while Old Crow Medicine Show have invited along Mumford & Sons... It was quite a remarkable evening in East London.
OCMS’ musicianship is truly amazing, as is their capacity to hold a young audience of well over 2,000 with nothing but a few acoustic instruments. They share the work, although the vocals and extraordinary harmonica playing of Ketch Secor stood out. There was too much noise in the venue to engage in any meaningful banter with the audience, so they just kept playing the music, one superb performance after another. Surely the people sitting in the seats in the circle must have wished for the opportunity to dance, though the people standing on the crowded ground floor certainly wished for a little more space.
There was a substantial portion of the crowd that had been drawn by Dave Rawlings and his band, which of course includes the great Gillian Welch, and in general they were not to be disappointed. The opening set was an hour long, which gave them time to work their way through most of A Friend of a Friend, possibly the best album of 2010 . They came back on stage about two-thirds of the way through the OCMS set as well, with Rawlings making a substantial contribution.
Nevertheless, with so many people performing, someone is likely to be eclipsed, and on this occasion it was Welch. Though she has made a conscious decision to take a back seat to her partner Rawlings this year, she is still a major artist and the crowd would clearly have liked more from her. She had only one moment in the spotlight, singing her classic “Look At Miss Ohio” before retreating to playing rhythm guitar for Rawlings. At the end of the show, when the stage got crowded, she found herself at a microphone that wasn’t really giving off any sound so that even her harmony vocals got lost, and she looked uncomfortably underemployed at times.
In total it was almost three hours of music and ended with 13 great musicians on stage at once, singing “Wagon Wheel”, along with the whole audience of course. A night to remember, in a well-organised and elegant venue.
Old Crow Medicine Show (without Dave Rawlings Machine) have three dates left on their UK tour, in Bristol, Cardiff and Brighton. Check the gig guide for details.