Review and photos by Rich Ward
You’ve played guitar all over the world for Alice Cooper, Thin Lizzy and now currently with Black Star Riders, your band is in the country to headline a festival so what do you do? If you’re Damon Johnson, you pack your acoustic and arrive a couple of days early and head off to the Iron Road in Evesham to delight the assembled throng who were lucky enough to find out about this hastily arranged show.
The Iron Road is a biker friendly rock pub which have lately put on some excellent shows and have plenty more tempting shows already lined up. With some fine ales on tap (and cocktails if that’s your thing) and support from Tom Davies (The Ginger Strummer) the evening is off to a good start. At just 15 years old, singer/songwriter Davies puts on an impressive show mixing in a couple of covers (Sweet Home Alabama, Wish You Were Here) to a set of mostly original numbers. There’s much potential here.
Damon Johnson opened with his take on Steve Earle’s ‘I Feel Alright’, and then proceeded to take us all on a journey through his own personal musical landscape and the influences that have shaped him along the way. From the Black Star Riders, we hear ‘Someday Salvation’, ‘Bound For Glory’ and an excellent take on ‘Kingdom Of The Lost’. There are some Thin Lizzy classics in ‘Cowboy Song’, Boys Are Back In Town’ and ‘Still In Love With You’. However, the pick of these is undoubtedly a spellbinding ‘Borderline’.
The next two hours saw a man who seemed to be revelling in the opportunity of playing his own songs in an intimate venue. A number of songs from his 2010 album Release are aired including the superb ‘Leave It All Behind’, ‘Jolene’ and the Ricky Byrd co-write of ‘She’s All That’. There’s a very relaxed atmosphere, with a lot of between song chat. Indeed, he even admitted that as far as the set was concerned, the first two songs were planned and it was a case of just seeing where it goes from there. His take on several Lynyrd Skynyrd tunes are excellent; ‘That Smell’, a personal favourite, was particularly spectacular. But it’s the mix of the other less obvious and more obscure tracks by the likes of Merle Haggard and Steve Earle that add so much to give balance and depth to the set, and ultimately left me feeling that I had witnessed something very special, rather than just another rock gig.
This was the first night he has tried his solo acoustic set in the UK. Judging from the reaction and mutual feedback he will be back in the near future to play some more extensive dates.