Live Review: CW Stoneking

7 November 2015 | 11:02 am | Sam Wall

"It’s clear straight away how much the audience adores CW Stoneking."

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The Thornbury theatre is already filling up when ‘drugged up Al Capone’ Peter Bibby appears in the stage lights. Bibby’s rocking a leather cowboy hat and sings in a wheezy twang that’s a little bit Midland delinquent and a little bit Dylan. He’s got a lot of songs about making mates and drinking goon, despite claiming to be ‘too old for that shit’. Mostly though he sings about being down and looking up without a ladder. It makes for some bittersweet country Australian country and blues that’d make good company if you found yourself drinking alone.

It’s clear straight away how much the audience adores CW Stoneking, who comes out all in white and digs straight into Early In the Mornin’. It’s the only exercise the banjo will get tonight before Stoneking pulls out a resonator and the electric guitar that filled up his latest effort Gon’ Boogaloo. When it’s done the brass and double bass sit out How Long and are replaced by Linda and Vika Bull and Maddy and Memphis Kelly singing back up. The two sister duos get a big welcome from the crowd for reasons made immediately obvious. They’re a pleasure to hear, stealing the show at times, and almost as much fun to watch, dancing out the lyrics on Zombie and The Jungle Swing. The rest of the band more than hold their own, the trombone and trumpet blasting on songs like The Love Me Or Die. Stoneking himself seems less talkative than previous shows. He keeps the yarn spinning and joke making to a minimum; although he does take some time to show off his ‘tornado proof shirt’ and to trash talk the banjo a little before Jungle Blues. Even without the tall tales Stoneking still sweats personality, especially on his ‘duets for one’ like Going The Country. It’s pretty hard to imagine too many other artists singing an argument with themselves on stage and making it work. Playing The Talking Lion Blues solo he’s able set the audience laughing with just a look. The band and backup singers rejoin Stoneking for the rest of the set, which wraps up with ‘bona fide gospel number’ He’s Been A Shelter For Me and a big rolling performance of We Gon’ Boogaloo. Nobody’s going anywhere just yet though and the crowd hoots and stomps until Stoneking returns for an encore. He tops the night with a solo Jailhouse Blues, which the people take up and sing along with him.