Kiefer Sutherland At The Troubadour, Wednesday December 18th 2019
‘I don’t want to tell people how to live their lives, but life is too short not to do something that you love,’ told us Kiefer Sutherland after two songs in his set at the Troubadour.
He was introducing one of his songs but he could have talked about himself, as his music project is probably exactly that, doing something he loves, despite the unavoidable prejudice against actors becoming musicians…
Another one? From Johnny Depp to Russell Crow, Kevin Bacon, Billy Bob Thornton, Bruce Willis, Kevin Costner, Jeff Bridges, Dennis Quaid (whom I recently saw at the Mint performing like a perfect ball of fire) there is a long list of them, and the middle-age ones lean toward this vague Americana style. This is no exception for Sutherland who has released his second album this year, ‘Reckless & Me’ following his 2016 ‘Down In a Hole’.
Max Gomez, a songwriter from New Mexico, opened the show with his heartfelt folk songs, which resonated with great sincerity and a certain melancholy coming from a young man habited by an old soul. his set was simple and short but he surely captivated the audience, which cheered up when he revealed that Kiefer Sutherland had directed the music video for the single of his album, ‘Run From You’
I went to the show without a preconceived idea, or even without having streamed the albums, although I was warned by Iman that the new album stank. Oh well, I thought, why not giving a chance to Jack Bauer live? It’s somewhat difficult to detach Sutherland from his TV roles, and the actor in him proved to be the best spokesman of his otherwise not-too-original Americana. Starting the show with ‘Rebel Wind’, a song he didn’t record (yet?), he came on stage wearing a white Lone Ranger hat, which he didn’t keep for very long. The tone was given though and surrounded by his very professional musicians, he did a long set, alternating songs of his two albums with cover songs. But if he told us he was a huge fan of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggar, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, he didn’t cover the most obvious ones, whereas Patty Loveless, Lone Justice, and Tom Petty (avoiding the most famous songs) were all part of the setlist.
Kiefer sings and talks with a rather rugged voice, a possible alcohol-worn-out kind of voice which gave him a rocky throat à la Johnny Cash during ‘Something You Love’, although the song, with its upbeat line-dancing chorus, turned to be way too poppy for this type of comparison. Between the songs, Kiefer was rather talkative, explaining that the album’s title track ‘Reckless & Me’, was a song about a horse and a reflection on the time (10 years to be exact) he spent at team roping at rodeos across the country… Suddenly the cowboy hat was not exactly there for decorum, and the road trip song was interpreted with energy, a few jumps from the back of the stage and high-pitched pedal steel. The road came back quite often (‘Open Road’) and despite the commonplace theme, Sutherland managed to be very convincing, maybe because he is not a bad actor, maybe because he has effectively been on the road a lot.
As for the love songs, they were almost non-existent, ‘I don’t write a lot of love songs, there’s no reason for that,’ he told us before ‘Faded Pair of Blue Jeans’, dedicated to the ‘old couples who have been together for a long time’. Still, there was ‘I’ll Do Anything’ a gentle-paced tune with a Kiefer Sutherland very comfortable with his masculinity when admitting it was written after watching ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’.
And there was ‘Shirley Jeans’, a rather upbeat mandolin-tune about the letter a man is writing to his girl during his last night in prison before his execution, a very gloomy subject, and ‘a tip of the hat to Johnny Cash’s work for prisoners’. ‘I have never been to prison but I have been in jail in a few times’, admits Kiefer with a smile, ‘And the first thing they take at the door is your dignity’.
A few songs later he will admit being shocked about the number of songs he has written about whiskey (probably half of his material?) before telling us more about the story which generated ‘Going Home’, a bar song with the lines ‘I’m tired of drinking to the past/And trying to make it last, save me’… it sounded sincere in default of being original.
The real action came with the covers, Patty Loveless’ ‘Blame It on Your Heart’, Lone Justice’s ‘Ways to Be Wicked’ and of course the bluesy distortion of Tom Petty’s ‘Honey Bee’, putting a punch in the middle of Sutherland’s own material. The rest of the songs faded into the next one, but ‘Saskatchewan’ brought an accordion followed by another life story, this time about Sutherland’s mother who almost died after suffering from three strokes, and ‘This Is How It’s Done’ totally woke up the slow Americana style with a country song whipped like a Cash creation.
There was an attempt to go all outlaw country during ‘All She Wrote’ and the bottom-of-the-bottle song ‘Down in a Hole’, as dangerous reverb guitars, maniac solos, and red lights put ecstatic energy on the crowd for the finale. Skipping ‘Not Enough Whiskey’ (written on the setlist), the encore brought one more song inspired by alcohol (not whiskey this time but Tequila), and ‘Agave’ was executed with more jumps, more arms in the air and plenty of sweaty energy.
There was no lack of charisma all night long, Kiefer is an actor and it shows, but there was also a genuine human being who could have invited anyone from the audience for a drink after the show. With nods to his songwriter heroes, Kiefer Sutherland turned to be an unpretentious performer always ready to entertain and connect with the audience through an anecdote. Certainly well aware of the cliché of the actor turned country musician, his self-deprecating attitude (‘I screwed up a lot’) was revealing a sincere artist having a good time and doing something he loved.
Can’t Stay Away
Something You Love
Reckless & Me
Faded Pair of Blue Jeans
Blame It on Your Heart (Patty Loveless cover)
Ways to Be Wicked (Lone Justice cover)
I’ll Do Anything
This Is How It’s Done
Run to Him
Honey Bee (Tom Petty cover)
All She Wrote
Down in a Hole
Not Enough Whiskey (not performed)