Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Jonathan Wilson - Retro-Futurism at the Centro Niemeyer, Aviles, Spain

Jonathan Wilson concert at the Centro Niemeyer, Aviles, Spain - 8th July 2013

So. I’m writing this not from The Valley of the Silver Moon (probably one of Jonathan Wilson’s best-known and most accomplished songs) but from a park in a city called Gijon in northern Spain. It’s a very hot muggy evening and it feels like there might be some thunder in the air. Perfect weather for listening to Jonathan Wilson’s album “Gentle Spirit” then.

There is a sultry, soporific feel to many of the songs on the album which suits the heat induced lethargy I currently feel. Although, to be honest, despite the high quality of song-writing and production it is an album I have found at times to be a little overlong. I can’t always seem to maintain the required mood for the entire 80 minutes. That is almost certainly my fault but I’m not sure it doesn’t also suffer from what we used to call double album syndrome, ie cut out half the songs and have a really classic single album instead. “Gentle Spirit” would be an absolute classic with 6 or 7 songs.

The Jonathan Wilson band seen live, however, is another story. I had the supreme pleasure of seeing this excellent band on Monday night in a city near here called Aviles. They were playing in a room downstairs at the Niemeyer Center and amazingly, there were only about 150 people present (no advertising? If not then shame on you Aviles) so it was a pretty intimate relaxed kind of gig. The room itself is all white and shoebox shaped with the stage set up down a long side. It has an art gallery feel to it but with the paintings removed. In fact the whole Niemeyer center in Aviles looks like a film set from a 1970s science fiction movie set in the 21st Century.

Maybe an apt setting for Jonathan Wilson’s own kind of musical retro-futurism.

Centro Niemeyer, Aviles - From Jonathan Wilson's facebook page

Anyway, not the standard kind of set-up then. This was the first time I’d seen the band and I thought I knew what to expect as there is some very good footage around of the band playing live on the net. The Live on KEXP gig is particularly impressive here. I was definitely ready and up for it. By the end of the show my expectations had not only been met but greatly surpassed.

For me, it is in a live setting that the songs on the album really come into their own. Live they have an organic quality that the album occasionally seems to lack, but it is the band. Believe me, the band are seriously good. Like early 70s Traffic, the songs build into a slow groove with some particularly fine extended instrumental passages. The tight interplay between the rhythm section of Dan on bass and Richie on drums (apologies, I didn’t catch their surnames and have been unable to find the line-up listed online) allow the soloists, Wilson, Omar on second guitar and Jason(?) on keyboards, to stretch out into some particularly high-quality musical interaction. Wilson is a very nifty economical guitar player with a soulful lonesome tone (occasionally reminiscent of David Gilmour) and has more than able support. Highlights were numerous but The Valley of the Silver Moon was stunning and live goes places it doesn’t even hint at on the album (see below).

Madonna's La Isla Bonita (see below) was a surprise but new song “Angel” has a particularly fat groove which is reminiscent of the middle rock section in the Pink Floyd’s Echoes but with a hint of Little Feat’s rampant syncopation. Everybody is dancing. This isn’t sit-on-the-floor stoner trippiness anymore this is classic relaxed ultrafunk. This bodes very well indeed for the new album to be released in the autumn.

The guys came out front stage for a quick chat after the gig and I had the pleasure of briefly chatting to Dan, Richie and Jonathan. This is a great band. Go and see them. Even if you don’t like the album much, you will be amazed by how good this band is live. Classic rock rebooted, refunked and retuned.

Desert Raven

La Isla Bonita


JW at the Niemeyer


  1. David: congratulations for this great blog. The song titled "Angel" is composed by Bob Welch. Others covers played by Jonathan Wilson were "The Way You Feel" (Gordon Lighfoot) and "Trials of Jonathan" (Happy Traum).

    Luis (Arle's friend too)

    1. Hola Luis! Thanks for your comment! I didn't know Angel and Trials Of Jonathan were covers so thanks for the info!
      Hasta pronto!

  2. Another performance by Jonathan Wilson (low quality video but great music)