Since the release of the brilliant Post to Wire in 2004 and subsequent masterpiece The Fitzgerald in 2005 Richmond Fontaine have immersed us in a world of gambling, whiskey, cheap motels and cheaper women. They disgruntled a few fans with their move from punk-rock to alt-country but our lives have been the richer for it. Sure, many of us can relate to Steven Morrissey’s lovelorn fables, Alex Turner’s observations or even Thom Yorke’s paranoid mutterings but how many of can really relate to tales of being down and out in Reno? For those of you with actual experience well we can’t pretend we’re not a mite bit jealous. That’s not to say that Willy Vlautin ever romanticises. He and the boys relay these tales with such clarity and conviction that our hearts break with those of the poor and dispossessed of which they sing about.
Playing as a four-piece in The Sugar Club, Richmond Fontaine are touring their latest album We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like River. The title track is bleakly sad and its core is the work of a man with rare insight into the human condition. Delivered note perfect this is Richmond Fontaine at their finest. The album was written following the death of Vlautin’s Mother while he took a break from the band following a horsing accident. The audience are hooked on his every word. -The Boyfriends’ recalls the series of boyfriends his own mother had when he was growing up. On the album Paul Brainard’s trumpet line captures the sense of fear and regret, tonight that’s created by Dan Eccles guitar and harmonised vocals between the remaining three and it’s every bit as poignant.
-43′ is a song about being buried in debt with a crappy job and cellar full of weed. It’s a nod back to their punk-rock days and it is at this point we see both the genius of Richmond Fontaine as a band and the failings of The Sugar Club as a venue. The performance is precise and raucous at the same time, however there’s a bit of a school hall feel about the place. There’s atmosphere at the back but that’s hampered by a limited view and poor sound, further degraded by chatting and clanging glasses at the bar (which is totally allowed by the way). Then there’s the hushed attention from those lining the walls and the lucky ones with seats, which is perfect for an Emiliana Torrini gig but not country rock. This is of no fault of those in attendance; it’s just a matter of ergonomics really.
-The Pull’ looks at alcoholism and the story of man who occupies himself with the gym and marathon drives in order to stay sober. The guitars are crystal clear with delicate percussion from Dave Harding and Sean Oldham. -Lost In This World’ from Thirteen Cities finds Vlautin with a moving vulnerability in his vocal. -Montgomery Park’ off The Fitzgerald brings more blissful country-rock to the proceedings. The encore has their version of Husker Du’s -Pink Turns to Blue’ and the heavy-weight epic, -Western Skyline’. What a delight. What a band. Come back soon lads.