LIVE REVIEW: The Dead South, Henry Wagons @ O2 City Hall, Newcastle (29.10.23) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

Image: The Dead South by Morgan Coates

Henry Wagons was supporting dynamic bluegrass collective The Dead South, performing as a two-piece act. What promised to be swaggering outlaw music quickly dissipated into a set of age-old country tropes, sandwiched between cliché ‘RocknRolla’ craic with the audience. With the last song literally called Willie Nelson and seemingly the only source of inspiration, all I can say is just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Fortunately, the bar was about to be considerably raised by The Dead South, on their first visit to Newcastle since February 2020. It was when the quartet wiggled into my ear canal and have largely remained there since. To the backdrop of a smoke-filled stage and their trademark gothic lighting, the dustbowl genius of Boots enshrouded the room, with many already stomping. Their punk roots seep into this alt-bluegrass alchemy on the gravel-filtered Black Lung, while That Bastard Son traverses into country via gospel ballad territory. The key to The Dead South’s crystalline sound is the pure simplicity of their approach; cello (played like a bass guitar), mandolin, acoustic guitar and, of course, banjo is all they need, with a kick drum to occasionally hasten the pace. At the time of writing, In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company has 382 million YouTube views and was clearly familiarised by everyone, before the Appalachian-infused Broken Cowboy and the incest-satirising Banjo Odyssey wrapped up the encore.

These are four highly skilled musicians who excel in showmanship and bar one unscrupulous pocket of Neanderthals in the crowd, the release of serotonin was palpable. A grizzled and unique spectacle that takes you back in time to dusty one-horse towns whenever they visit these shores.

Like this story? Share it!

Subscribe to our mailout