Thursday 22nd October 2015
It was certainly a case of apprehension as we approached the sold out London Borderline in February. We obviously had reservations about Academy award winner Ryan Bingham performing a solo acoustic set without his dearly departed 'Dead Horses' - who we salivated over when first saw them at Hard Rock Calling in June 2011. We needn't have worried - an easy early contender for our 2015 WRC 'Best Acoustic' award. And the cherry on the cake was that Ryan was returning to London in October with - wait for it - his band! And talking of Hollywood - as we said at the time - "we're gonna need a bigger boat" - hence our trip to the Koko, Camden on Thursday night!
We just missed the start of 'Sons Of Bill' but the band from Virginia - albeit a short set - eased the Koko punters into an eagerly anticipated performance from the headliner from New Mexico. Fresh from stepping off of the Dover ferry after European gigs in Barcelona, Rome and Brussels - the Americana singer/songwriter eased in with The Dead Horses 'Dollar A Day' setting out his Americana/Roots Rock credentials to anyone who was in any doubt. 'Top Shelf Drug' from his recent album 'Fear And Saturday Night' followed - the lack of album keyboards more than made up for by Daniel Sproul's guitar work. The set understandably see-sawed between Dead Horses and 'FASN' - 'Tell My Mother I Miss Her So' an opportunity for another RB - Richard Bowden - to show his prowess on the fiddle on this foot-tapper. Both 'FASN's 'Snow Falls In June' and 'Radio' took the foot-stomping down a notch - emphasising both the contrast and thoughtful lyrics in Bingham's set.
'BlueBird' took me back to Hyde Park 2011 when the Dead Horses packed a punch with their electric guitars and keys - suffice to say this rocked and went down well with the WRC beside me! Ryan's harmonica heralded Junky Star's beautiful 'The Poet' - the audience hanging on tightly on this emotional roller coaster of a set. Bingham's voice to die for - was again perfectly illustrated on 'Hallelujah' - yet another stand out track from 'Junky Star' - which understandably charted in the US in 2010. FASN's 'Adventures Of You and Me', 'My Diamond Is Too Rough' and the "Dylanesque" 'Broken Heart Tatoos' were a microcosm of the contrasting Americana Roots Rock genres in the set although the delicious 'Southside Of Heaven' managed to combine all these musical elements culminating in a wonderful jam with Bingham, Sproul and Bowden stepping up to the railway plate.
They finally let the handbrake off the engine for the encore with a cover of the Stones' 'Rip This Joint', the slide of the awesome Dead Horses 'Sunshine' and finally the stand out acoustic Horses number from his Borderline gig 'Bread and Water'. To be fair the appreciative audience lapped it up but for mine, unexpectedly, it didn't hit the heights of the intimacy and touching personal anecdotes of The Borderline in February nor the first time we saw Ryan and The Dead Horses rock out at Hyde Park over four years ago. Still a great night though.