Gig review: Devon Sproule at the Green Note, London
Given that the last time Devon Sproule headlined a show in London it was at the 900-seat Queen Elizabeth Hall, it was a treat to see her playing at the tiny Green Note for the launch party of her new CD& DVD “Live In London”. The ostensible purpose of the evening was a preview showing of the DVD, but the audience was also treated to a short live set from Sproule. The crowd included various band members and friends from record company and film company, which combined with some committed fans made for an enthusiastic and appreciative audience. Despite a few minor problems, it was an immensely enjoyable evening.
The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly Sproule’s live performance, performing solo apart from a couple of songs where she was joined by husband Paul Curreri. She played for almost an hour, and it was a nicely balanced set, with two songs from each of her last three albums, along with four new songs. The opener - described by Sproule as “a bastardised, simple version” of Nina Simone’s “My Baby Just Cares For Me” showed she was in fine voice. She is really an exceptional singer and hearing her with just her guitar and no band allowed you to home in on, and enjoy, her singing. She stumbled over the lyrics to both “Bowling Green” and “Stop By Anytime”, but recovered well, and “Don’t Hurry for Heaven” was another song to highlight some of her loveliest singing.
The event was a welcome opportunity to hear some of the new songs Sproule has been working on. “The Evening Ghost Crab”, about spending time at the beach with family, showcased some eloquent lyrics: listening to the cicada choir around the jumping fire. “The Faulty Body” written for her friend Danele who died while Sproule was on her UK tour last year also has some interesting lyrics, but an underdeveloped melody. It’s never easy to judge on a first listen, but some of the new songs sounded like they are still in development. Since Sproule hopes to be touring the UK again next spring, it will be interesting to see if they change much between now and then.
Sproule is always happy to let husband Paul Curreri share the spotlight, and with typical generosity left him to perform the last song of the evening, “California”.
The live performance was preceded by a showing of the DVD, which ran for around 42 minutes, and comprised performance footage of eight songs intercut with home-movie-type footage of the band on the road. DVD extras are limited to a brief description of the company who made it, and an extract from the performance by support act Mantler from the same QEH show. If the DVD is a little underwhelming, the CD is much better. Taken from her performance last year at QEH, it showcases with the help of an extended band the full rage of Sproule’s songs. The album sleeve lists ten songs, but there is the bonus addition of a fine version of Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone”, duetting with Curreri.
Click here for Backroads' interview with Devon Sproule last year, including live audio from the QEH show.