LIVE REVIEW: Wreckless Eric@ The Engine Room, North Shields (15.11.23) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Geoff Sudgitt

Best known for his much-loved 1977 single Whole Wide World on Stiff Records, Eric Goulden’s sublime songwriting has only got better with the passing decades, supplying this veteran road warrior with an enviable back catalogue to draw on.

Tonight’s show at a rammed The Engine Room in North Shields’ atmospheric Fish Quay was a jaw-dropping showcase of exquisite songcraft, delivered with bucket-loads of verve, humour and passion. The fact that the vast majority of the set-list was drawn from albums released within the last five years is testament to the extraordinary creative purple patch that Goulden is currently surfing.

There was so much to love about this show; despite having been brought close to death by Covid-19 and a suspected heart attack in the near past, Goulden’s glorious vocal style is still a thing of joy and beauty, snarling like a Sussex-born Sky Saxon yet perfectly adept at delivering a killer melody. Switching between acoustic guitar and a Gretsch electric, Eric clearly relished playing the sonics of his guitar sound, deftly de-tuning and re-tuning guitar strings, tweaking his amp settings and deploying a clutch of effects pedals to create feral tones reminiscent of Link Wray, The Red Krayloa and even Sonic Youth.

At the heart of all this, Goulden’s diamond-hard songwriting shone through, abetted by hilarious anecdotes, asides and tangents that enhanced rather than detracted from the lyrics. In a set full of magical moments, the songs from this year’s superlative Leisureland album burned especially brightly; Dial Painters (Radium Girls), a disquieting tale of wartime industry and its toxic legacy, struck a particularly resonant chord; the song’s poignant lyricism addressing issues of class exploitation, sexism and quiet, everyday heroism with a poet’s lightness of touch. In a sane world, this song would be a shoo-in for a Novello.

Other standouts included Standing Water and a churning The Old Versailles. Whole Wide World followed a captivating rendition of California/Handyman from 2019’s sublime Transience album, before the main set closed with The Half of It, another Transience’ highlight. Despite Eric’s insistence that “I don’t do that tacky encore shit”, the appreciative audience was rewarded with two more gems, the Stiff-era single Reconnez Cherie and a rollicking Several Shades of Green, the singer beaming with happiness as he brought the curtain down on a stunning two-hour set.

At 69 years old, Eric is in the form of his life – don’t miss an opportunity to see him if you can.

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