Shepherd's Bush Empire, London on Wednesday 27 November 2013

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Phosphorescent is the alias of Americana stalwart Matthew Houck who brings his sterling 'Mucacho' LP to The Shepard's Bush Empire in London to finish off a hefty European tour. There is undoubtedly added pomp to Houck's music with this album and that's translated over onto the live stage as well, coming out dressed in a white cowboy outfit complete with golden boots.

This isn't just a solo endeavour on the road either with a six piece band in tow to help him realise the grandeur of his most recent record in a live setting. Tonight is the culmination of a seemingly never ending schedule of gigging with this at least the third time he's played in London this year.

Although it would be easy to bestow platitudes on Houck alone, praise must be reserved for his band members. Six incredibly gifted musicians who are as tight a unit as you are likely to see, whether this quality is brought about via the never ending gigging together or the understanding has been a crewed from just being supremely talented. Regardless, they add a fully loaded sound that makes Houck's music shine even that little bit brighter.

Muchacho is one of the records of the year and the gig is heavily reliant on material from that LP which has helped perhaps propel him from Americana obscurity to an Americana somebody as the upgrade in venue size would probably suggest. The added pomp on record translates over to the live setting remarkably well with 'Song for Zulu' incandescent live and 'Ride On/Right On' being every bit the rowdy southern American bar room jamboree it sounds like on record.

Houck is left on his own for a special stripped back section of the gig which sees him run through a few of the more haunting numbers from his back catalogue. 'Muchacho's tune' sees him with only the piano for company. Its tunes like this with the focus on the song writing as piano eeks in the background that make you aware of how good a songwriter Houck is, with the sheer desperation and aching lyrics remarkably well observed by the entire venue.

The section was completed with a triumphant rendition of 'Cocaine Lights' with the use of a loop pedal used to build a show stopping crescendo with a dramatic vocal which was as mesmerising as it was unsettling. Whilst the new album couldn't have translated better onto the live setting it was perhaps a very minor disappointment that some older material wasn't scattered in through the set, but that would perhaps be being greedy in a fully satisfying gig.

Not to say that Houck didn't dip into the back catalogue at all, the encore including the sprawling and majestic 'Los Angeles' which caps off a fantastic set and a year in which Houck and his pseudonym have closer aligned there critical and commercial success.

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article by: Paul Mullin

published: 03/12/2013 09:07