In a world full of musical clones and glorified karaoke sessions clogging up our television, singer/song writer/ multi-instrumentalist Stan Ridgway has truly defined the way an artist can stand apart from the pack.

Highly individual in his style, approach, and philosophy towards the creation of music, he came to prominence in the early 80s as the lead singer of the seminal American alternative band Wall Of Voodoo. After leaving the band, he has released a string of highly evocative and strong solo albums such as the 1986 masterpiece The Big Heat and 1991’s Partyball, right through to Mr Trouble from last year.

An incredibly gifted storyteller, with a highly distinctive vocal drawl, tonight featured Ridgway playing as part of a four-piece band. The two hour set that followed was truly a rich and rewarding experience.

In a musical time and place where idiots with laptop computers, or certain pop singers can release a songs with lrics like ‘you a ho’ repeated ad nauseaum and be classified as ‘artists’, it is truly heartening and gratifying to see and hear someone like Ridgway restore meaning to that word.

The man has a highly individual and idiosyncratic world view, reflecting in the narratives he paints in his songs, whether it is from either a first person or third person perspective. Listening to songs such as “ “The Big Heat” or “Peg And Pete And Me”, the worlds painted are cynical but never depressing or maudlin, with a strong influence of the milieu of both film noir and the western.

15 years since he last visited these shores, Ridgway and his cracking band were in absolutely fine form. Opening with “Mr Trouble”, his banter between songs was very droll and deadpan, but charming and charismatic as hell at the same time.

It was a real treat to hear songs such as the propulsive “Drive, She Said” and “Camouflage” performed live, the latter being a striking ghost story set during  Vietnam War.

This brilliant set was a great cross section of the man’s life and times in music. The track that put him on the world radar, Wall Of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio”, saw long-time fans particularly excitable and proudly up the front of the venue, singing along with every word.

All of the songs played tonight were of an outstanding quality, almost to the point where one was spoilt. Songs such as “Call Out To Carol”, “Turn A Blind Eye” and the still stunning “Don’t Box Me In”, in which Ridgway originally collaborated with Police drummer Stewart Copeland, with the song featured in the criminally underrated film Rumble Fish, directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1983, were absolute standouts.

Soon after came a jaw dropping version of the iconic Johnny Cash song “Ring Of Fire”. With a stomp box playing a droning, distorted drum beat; this took what was an already outstanding track to a higher level.

With the stage bathed in red light and smoke machine fog, it really felt like a decent into hell, with the band giving it everything they had. The hairs up on the collective necks of the audience were nothing short of remarkable. A true example of taking a song somewhere it hadn’t been before. It was also a truly nice tip of the hat from one true iconoclast to another.

This magnificent night closed out in a poignant and quite moving fashion with the remarkable “Mission In Life”. This was Ridgway at his most compassionate and humanist, in a track that called out for people to look out for each other when in need.

This was a fantastic and truly special night. Without a doubt, one of the highlights 2013 in regards to live music in this city.

Write a Letter to the Editor