The Verse’s Tom Evans tells us what he thought of Handsome Family at St. George’s Church, Brighton, on 24th March 2018.
Support on the night came from Morgan Geer under his pseudonym Drunken Prayer – a very apt stage name with the gig venue being a church. It also perfectly describes his music, a dark, bluesy take on country, with themes including heartbreak and loss. Despite being onstage on his own, he managed to conjure up quite a raucous sound, filling the room with ease.
As mentioned in the preview of the gig, this current tour by Handsome Family is a nostalgic one and a real treat for long-term fans of the band. They decided to tour their third album, Through the Trees, in its entirety to mark its 20th anniversary.
Although married couple Ronnie and Brett Sparks are permanent fixtures in the band, they were joined by Jason Toth and Alex McMahon on percussion and guitar. Additional instruments were also played throughout the set.
Even though the album is 20 years old, the songs still sounded fresh. The band seemed to really enjoy playing these songs. I have seen bands play albums full in the past; at times they just run through the motions (I’m looking at you, Interpol).
Even though there are some pretty dark themes throughout the songs, there was also a lot of laughter in-between. Ronnie, in particular, had a very dry sense of humour. We were treated to tails of the couple learning how to do laundry in the UK, as well as Ronnie’s attempts to raise a rodent army.
There were two clear styles throughout the set. The songs that Ronnie sang lead on had a more bluegrass feel to them. I preferred, however, the darker alt-country leanings with Brett’s deep melancholic tone featured on songs such as The Giant of Illinois and My Ghost.
After performing the album, the band returned to the stage for a short encore which included Far From Any Road (from the 2003 album Singing Bones). Used as the theme song for True Detective, the song has helped bring them to a wider audience.
As the band themselves put it, here is to another 20 years!