Without cloning technology it was another Saturday night dilemma still as easily solved; Concrete Prairie were at The Gate, arm twisted….
From The Barge to the Pump we were spoiled for live music choices; any decision made I could predict would’ve paid off. But after fondly reviewing Swindon’s dark roots Americana five-piece, Concrete Prairie’s self-titled debut album last September, I hot-footed it to Swindon Shuffle to see them, and from Calne to Bradford-on-Avon I’ve been stalking them like a red-cheeked groupie with hearts for pupils, hoping my hometown will get a taste of why, soonishly.
It only seemed fitting then, being I’ve nagged landlady Deborah to get them in, now they finally play our trusty Devizes answer to the 02 arena, I show my ugly mug and assist in draining the scrumpy barrels.
It was, as ever down the Southgate, a blinding night. Celebrating their fifth year at the helm and over 350 gigs, Deb and Dave show no sign of converting it to a Christian science reading room yet. It’s lively and bustling, despite a majority of town’s live music aficionados at Long Street, but importantly, it’s always welcoming.
Sadly the Gate supplied a PA unsuitable for a five-piece, ergo the engineering didn’t do Concrete Prairie’s divine sound justice, by comparison to the acoustics of the specifically designed Wiltshire Music Centre, where I saw them last.
But as pundits of their craft, they overcame and delivered us their superb set of stunning originals, with outstanding covers of The Coral, and the particularly adroit Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman.
I never tire of hearing this set. Concrete Prairie operates as a unit, their passion shows in this tight unification and spills out to any audience, the result is irresistible entertainment of the highest calibre. Dark country Americana doesn’t necessarily have to be your thing, you’ll come away in awe.
And as is their tradition, they leave their magnum opus for the encore. The mood-switching, tempo-layered The Devil Delt the Deck is the perfect finale, saccharine yet melancholic. Its building powerhouse of emotions acts as the template to drive you back to see this band at every available opportunity.
Catch them locally on 16th April at the Electric Bar at Bath’s Komedia, and again with Mad Dog McRea on 7th May, at Cherhill Bank Holiday Celebration in Calne on 5th May, The Live Music Festival in Bradford-on-Avon 3rd June, and their Food & Drink Festival on the 11th. On the 17th, they headline Chippenham Pride and are at Box’s Schtumm on 25th June.
The Southgate humbly work with what they have, squeezing the kind of band into the bijou you’d happily pay a ticket stub for, and whatever technical stage engineering they lack they make up with devotion, and create an undeniably happy place, essentially our favourite pub in Wiltshire.
Personally, my favourite band currently on the circuit, in my favourite watering hole, was a chicken dinner, so while there was plenty on the menu, trips to Marlborough’s Lamb for Pants, Deadlight Dance at The Barge, Plan of Action at the Three Crowns, Long Street and a Devizes Scooter Club night, I had to make a choice, but it wasn’t pin in a map, if you’ve seen Concrete Prairie you’ll understand; I scoffed the lot, with only vague memories of returning home!