If he’d spent a little less time bemoaning the alleged 11 pm curfew, Christian Kane might have had time to sing a few more songs for the loyal army of fans who turned out to see him in Camden in November.
Might also have helped if he’d come on stage a tad earlier in the evening than 10. I’m just saying …
Why exactly did we need three warm-up acts? Even though the first was on stage by 8.15 or so, by the time the main attraction hit the stage, the crowd weren’t just warmed up; most of them were totally hammered. And some, I have to say, a bit scary and aggressive.
I happened to read my horoscope in the free paper on the train on the way up. It had counselled against confrontations and involving myself in battles I couldn’t win so I refrained from sticking up for myself when the going got tough. This restraint meant I had to put up with being elbowed in the throat by someone who felt the need to constantly fluff up her hair (she did have nice hair, I have to say) and then toss it a few times (each time nearly knocking out my contact lenses), to make sure the fluffing up had worked before refluffing just in case it hadn’t. All this she accomplished while back and forth to the bar for more drinks and participating in a conversation consisting mostly of asterisking expletives with her gang of friends. I’m forever taking evasive action while not daring to look at her any way that might be interpreted as wrong as I can just see myself headbutted, floored and trampled underfoot.
The Jazz Cafe is packed out and it’s pretty hard to find a spot where you can even glimpse the stage if you happen to be on the diminutive side and not anxious to start a commotion. In our previous place we’d been continually buffeted by folk trying to get past but maybe that was the lesser of two evils.
The crowd is super-excitable and ultra-responsive. This I expected – Kane fans are not called Kaniacs for nothing. But they detain the third support, Stewart Mac (with Dean Roberts), for an encore. He’s not bad and I enjoyed hearing more but I’m painfully aware that, the more we see of him, the less we’re going to see of Christian. Do the math, guys.
But another good thing about the Kaniacs is that they’ve just about captured the whole concert for posterity. They considerately want to share their experience with fans who couldn’t be there. A little less considerately, you might be able to hear more of them than Christian on the resultant clips.
When CK finally takes the stage, curls of long hair escaping from under a grey-brown hat, sporting a shirt that looked kind of indigo in the stage lights over a lighter-coloured long-sleeved T, sleeves of both rolled up, blue jeans with trainers and a big macho leather wristlet plus some kind of medallion round his neck, no one can deny he’s a sight for sore eyes. And his late arrival has successfully built anticipation to a fever pitch.
He seems like a genuine, genial guy but the country rocker spent an inordinate amount of time chatting, goofing around with and hugging buddy and guitarist Hank (Henri O’Connor), thanking the venue for having him, saying what a great venue it was, thanking us for coming out, telling us how he much he likes being in London, failing to retune his guitar, losing his pick and fucking up the beginnings of verses and suchlike (fine, funny, adorable if you’ve all the time in the world which, as he kept reiterating, we didn’t).
In fact he reminds us of the time constraint every few minutes, declaring, a little less than sincerely, I suspect, his willingness to play all night if it weren’t for the curfew. I’m getting a little incensed by the procrastination and the protests too much, if you know what I mean. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s more of a self-imposed deadline than anything set in concrete. And, in fact the single encore included, he stops at 10.55, so depriving us of a possible further five minutes.
Some of these fans appear so devoted that they just might whoop, cheer and applaud if Christian decided not to play any music at all. And the actor/musician seems to appreciate and acknowledge their dedication and maybe on this occasion take advantage of it a little.
Time gripes aside, what we did hear was awesome, from breezy opener ‘Happy Man’ to thoughtful, self-analytical encore ‘Dusty Rose’: ‘A little dirty, a little rough around the edges … And no tellin’ how many times/You cut your hands holdin’ me’.
He was in fine voice and high spirits and more than ably accompanied by O’Connor, with whom he enjoys an obvious onstage chemistry. In the YouTube clips the women singing or shouting along (in various versions of off key) sound like they are practically drowning the singer out but this isn’t that apparent on the night, thankfully. I realise this must be gratifying to an artist and is indeed encouraged (‘If you know it, please sing along’) but, let’s be real, audience participation is all fine and dandy but we’re not really shelling out to hear somebody next to us bellow out their renditions of our favourites. His voice is ever so slightly better than theirs, after all.
We were promised a couple of new songs, one of which, ‘Sever’, was delivered. Co-written with Hank (‘This is a song that me and him wrote’), it made quite an impression – one of those moody laments chronicling a foundering relationship (‘Don’t ya know the sky aint fallin’, don’t ya/Don’t ya know if it was I’d catch it for ya?/Don’t ya know if I was gonna leave, by now I would have done so long ago’). Covers included ‘The One I Love’ (‘Somebody else [David Gray] wrote this but it’s one of my favourite songs in the world’) and ‘Jolene’. Enjoyed terrific versions of ‘Thinking of You’ and ‘Let Me Go’ as well as crowd-pleasing roustabouts ‘Whiskey in Mind’ (during which Christian admits ‘By the way, I fucked up, he didn’t fuck up’ of Hank, who’d only just learnt the song) and ‘The House Rules’. But we kind of lost the momentum of ‘Different Kind of Knight’ when they kept dicking around before the last verse. Yeah, it was sort of charming that he doesn’t take himself too seriously but, once again, made me acutely conscious that time wasted was time off the performance.
It’s an indication of the extent of his back catalogue that he didn’t play a single track featured on the Live in London acoustic CD from 2004 that we bought at the gig, any of which I would also love to have heard.
I know you’re meant to leave your audience wanting more. But the fine-looking blue-eyed sex kitten just didn’t give us quite enough – a mere ten songs – and I thought he was bound to play ‘Rattlesnake Smile’. He only played one encore but he’d drilled the so-called deadline into everybody’s heads so much that I think most of the audience had resigned themselves to the inevitable and considered their time well and truly up.
 At the Grant Hart gig in The Miller the week before, a number of support acts similarly delayed the advent of the headliner till about 10. He played nearly 20 songs nevertheless and continued till at least 11.30.
 I can imagine Kane would call me a ‘motherfucker’ for daring to criticise the singalongers. He abused a punter who pleaded for quiet at one point, responding: ‘Shut the fuck up, man! Absolutely don’t be fucking quiet!’ I don’t think he appreciates the exquisite agony of having someone tone deaf screaming in your ear all the way through a concert. It’s not something I’d recommend anyone try, especially when you’re desperate to hear someone perform live. But I think he truly revels and thrives in the interactive atmosphere of his gigs.
 During which the whooping between verses gets a little out of control, breaking up the song and a little voice from the crowd says ‘Sorry’ to which the singer replies reassuringly, ‘Don’t apologise at all for that – that’s awesome.’ I get it – instant feedback is good.