Josh T Pearson – review

Union Chapel, London

Ten years on from Lift to Experience's resurrection-obsessed album The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads, Josh T Pearson is experiencing a second coming of his own. "We could have sold out this place out twice over," Pearson says, his beard almost touching his chest, his southern drawl tinged with the same awe and fear that sent him scurrying away from success and seeking out the anonymity of an American backwater.

He claims to have not even listened to his long-awaited solo debut, The Last of the Country Gentleman, and marvels that anyone else has. "There must be a lot of sad people," he reflects. Tracing the brutal breakdown of a relationship, the album certainly is not easy listening. As Pearson paces the stage, alone, playing the shivery guitar chords of Sweetheart, I Ain't Your Christ, the light-hearted bantering atmosphere turns intense. Whether a full-blooded roar or sighing whisper, his voice fills every nook and cranny of the venue.

Pearson is joined, for the first time, by a string section – "It was advertised as a quartet but we could only afford three" – for Woman When I've Raised Hell, and the mournful cello and violins enhance his hateful self-pity. But all too soon, the strings are gone, and Pearson is back to blending his sublimely intimate songs with bad jokes, all the while staring skyward and repeatedly muttering, "The king is dead."

Few other musicians, however, could play for two hours and make it feel as though the gig has just begun, or turn each 10-minute dissection of regret and grief – including a version of Boney M's Rivers of Babylon – into a welcome catharsis. Pearson even cajoles the crowd into becoming a harmonious choir for The Devil's on the Run, their faith repaid by his admiration. Let's hope he sticks around this time.


Betty Clarke

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Josh T Pearson: 'Each show, I think I'll never do this again'

His latest album has been hailed as the release of the year. Josh T Pearson talks to Laura Barton about his Pentecostal upbringing, life in the desert – and how you write a song about heartbreak

Laura Barton

16, Nov, 2011 @9:45 PM

Article image
Spotify Live: Josh T Pearson performs I Ain't Your Christ - video

Watch the bearded troubadour perform I Ain't Your Christ from his album Last of the Country Gentlemen

12, Dec, 2011 @4:57 PM

Josh T Pearson: Last of the Country Gentlemen - review
Prepare for intense and discomforting misery at the hands of Josh T Pearson. By Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

10, Mar, 2011 @10:20 PM

Josh T Pearson: Last of the Country Gentlemen – review
Josh T Pearson's solo debut is terrifyingly intense, writes Ally Carnwath

Ally Carnwath

13, Mar, 2011 @12:05 AM

Article image
Josh T Pearson live session - How I Wrote Sorry with a Song

Josh T Pearson visited the Guardian's studios to perform Sorry with a Song

Andy Gallagher, Shehani Fernando, Noah Payne-Frank and Ben Kape

17, Nov, 2011 @2:13 PM

Article image
Sarabeth Tucek and Josh T Pearson are the Charlie Sheens it's OK to follow

Two of this year's most striking albums are immensely candid rock confessionals. Should we feel dirty for listening in?

Laura Snapes

15, Apr, 2011 @11:03 PM

Josh T Pearson, Monto Water Rats, London

Monto Water Rats, London

Betty Clarke

21, Sep, 2007 @10:50 PM

Article image
Cass McCombs – review

The eclectic and prolific underground artist shows he can be jawdroppingly beautiful and rip-roaringly deadpan, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

12, Jan, 2014 @2:54 PM

Article image
Bill Callahan – review

The lo-fi pioneer makes few concessions to showbiz, but is an artist at the peak of his songwriting power, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

04, Feb, 2014 @11:22 AM

Band of Horses – review

For the purposes of playing live, perhaps Band of Horses should put more zing in their thing, writes Caroline Sullivan

Caroline Sullivan

14, Jul, 2013 @4:00 PM