Bill Callahan Live @ The Deaf Institute - Manchester, Live Review

Review of Bill Callahan live at The Deaf Institute, Manchester 24-08-09

Bill Callahan

Nearing the completion of a successful European tour promoting latest release Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle, Texas-based musician Bill Callahan (formerly Smog) would find himself at the hands of a full house at Manchester’s Deaf Institute.

Support came courtesy of female solo artist Sophia Knapp. The Brooklyn based musician might not have set the place on fire, but her graceful folk ballads appeared to warrant a polite and warm response from the audience.

The subtle theatre flavours of this fantastic intimate venue provide a perfect backdrop for the music of Bill Callahan and with the place absolutely rammed, Bill took to the stage with full band (drums, cello, violin and additional guitar). Callahan’s set-list relied heavily on the new record - cue songs such as: ‘Jim Cain’, ‘Too Many Birds’, ‘Rococo Zephyr’, ‘Eid Ma Clack Shaw’, ‘All Thoughts Are Prey To Some Beast’ and ‘The Wind And The Dove’ (featuring Sophia Knapp) . The crisp drums and lush strings provided a wonderful foundation for Callahan’s warm baritone and all the fresh output seemed to bode very well with the fixated audience.

Of course, there were a few Smog classics. ‘Diamond Dancer’, ‘Rock Bottom Riser’ and ‘Bathysphere’ all got an airing. And the encore saw more of the same, ‘Our Anniversary’ led to the crowd-pleasing closer ‘Cold Blooded Old Times’ from the acclaimed Knock Knock album.

With a great venue, an appreciative crowd, a deeply satisfying set-list and a sterling performance from Bill Callahan and friends, it’s hard to look for negatives from a gig that ticked all the right boxes. Excellent.

Colin Burrill

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