By Roger Sharman
Last Tuesday night in soggy Soho we were treated to one of the best live shows of the year. Coming back from career-threatening surgery on his throat, this was really the first opportunity that Wade Bowen had to promote his critically-acclaimed ‘Solid Ground’ Album that was released in February 2018.
Backstage, pre-show, Kate and I found Wade in a very relaxed and jovial mood for our interview, you will be able to read that shortly.
The set timings in the venue said that Wade would be onstage from 9pm to 10pm, which I thought was a little strange, luckily for us all this must have been some kind of typo as we were blessed with a near two hour set that seemed to fly past.
Opening up the show with an old favourite, 2008’s ‘You had me at My Best’ from ‘If We Ever Make It Home’ instantly set the tone for what was to be a wonderful show from start to finish. Another cut from that album ‘Trouble’ followed immediately on, Wade was smiling, the band were smiling, the crowd were singing along and dancing and there was a true party vibe in the venue.
The first track to be played from the ‘Solid Ground’, Wade told us was a song taking him back to his youth, to a time when he hopped over the border with some friends, into Mexico to have his first drink, which he got heavily overcharged for. The song was Acuna (pronounced ‘A-cun-ya’ Wade informed us after his witty anecdote). What an awesome version it was that we were treated to.
‘West Texas Rain’ followed, and that has always provided a stern test for Wade’s vocal cords and it was performed flawlessly. The crowd were in full voice now, so it was only apt that a big fan favourite was up next, ‘When I Woke Up Today’. From 2014’s eponymously titled album, which is one of those songs that I dare anyone to try and still do. That certainly applies to the version that the band played; it was simply stunning.
‘So Long 6thStreet’, was preceded by a reflection on Wade’s time at University in Austin and leaving the famous 6thStreet behind. He then paid tribute to the soon to be closed venue, pausing mid-song to change the lyrics to “so long Borderline”. In the moment I think everyone would have been taken back to earlier nights in this most popular of venues.
‘Yours Alone’ is the addition that comes with the deluxe version of ‘Solid Ground’ joked Bowen, but one that he views as one of the best songs that he’s ever written.
‘Til it does’ written by this guy called Chris Stapleton and Lee Thomas Miller was just sheer perfection. Its long been one of my favourite songs, so it that was a really special moment in the show for me. Wade kept on plying us with some of his finest back-catalogue hits. ‘Songs About Trucks’ was absolutely glorious and had everyone moving their feet and belting out the words.
A real nice surprise came next in the shape of Dwight Yoakam’s ‘Guitars, Cadillacs’ which did little to lower the pulse rate for some of the older folk in the crowd, and I’ll include myself in that.
The mood momentarily because a little more sombre as Wade reflected on his “shitty 2018”, which included the loss of his nephew and stage manager Chase Cavender and throat surgery. The band departed the stage and left Bowen to sing ‘Death, Dying’ and Devilled Eggs’.
‘7:30’ was positively haunting, and slotted in perfectly in the set, comfortably compartmentalising the more serious parts of the show from the ‘let’s have a party’ vibe that provided the back drop for the remainder of the show.
Taking a trip back in time to 2008’s ‘If We Ever Make It Home’ got the party started again, with the band demonstrating a particular tightness and owning the surroundings totally with their harmonies.
‘Day of the Dead’, we were informed much to the amusement of both crowd and band is the number one song for Line dancing in France right now. I can understand why, but it would be pretty high on the list for most forms of dancing, its one of those songs that you’d still feel your body moving to if you buried up to your neck in sand.
By this stage we were getting totally gorged on this amazing performance, Wade and crew giving the audience another shot of energy, with ‘Sunshine on A dreamer’ sounding finer than ever before.
‘Fell in love on Whiskey’ was an absolute riot, it was funked up, with the band introductions giving each member his time under the spotlight. I’ve always felt it is at this point in the show when the Band can really have some fun.
Two more big crowd favourites wind up the set in ‘Mood Ring” and a storming version of ‘Saturday’, that had every person there screaming and hollering until the band had no choice but to re-join us.
Opener from ‘Solid Ground’, ‘Couldn’t Make You Love Me’ and the The Allman Brothers Band classic, ‘Midnight Rider’ were worthy encore tracks for such a memorable night with Wade and the boys leaving everything out there on stage, coming forward at the very end to lap up the applause of the adoring audience.
I hate the idea of not being able to head up to the Borderline on a Tuesday night but its only a couple of weeks until it no longer exists. I’ve had many a great night there over the years, it’s become one of my favourite venues in London and will be sorely missed. I noticed they were no longer serving Blue Ribband behind the bar.
In Wade’s word’s “So long Borderline”.