Stage presence is a chief virtue among performers of all walks. Nigel Walsh has a bit of an unfair advantage in that contest because he towers over everyone at the Park Bar & Grill in Burbank when he arrives for his monthly show on Friday night.
Walsh played this particular show on his actual birthday, so in addition regulars, and fans of country music looking for some fun, Nigel’s close friends and family are also in attendance. Nigel takes the stage space in the bar and I notice immediately that everyone is giving him berth. Perhaps it’s the sound equipment and the wires, or maybe the noise, but the reality I think is that when Walsh kicks down for the first riff of his opening song, he’s drawn the line and that stage is his.
Walsh played a mix of covers and his own original songs including some soon to be released tracks on his upcoming album. Walsh’s band executed every song with energy, enthusiasm, and technical precision I don’t often expect of a bar & grill set. A lot of times in these settings bands get the slouch going, they’re enjoying the free drinks from the bar between songs, they adjust to the dim of the bar, and you can hear them start jamming rather than performing.
Walsh and his band did have drinks. They opened their set with a moment that reminded me of a move I once saw Buddy Guy pull at a live set in New York, Walsh actually insisted he and his band take jello shots on stage to mark to occasion. Bless the bartender who went from artist to artist with the shots (lime jello, if you’re wondering). There’s an old saying, en vino veritas- in wine truth- and I’ve always held onto the fact that people don’t transform into alter egos when drinking, they become more themselves.
Through their drinks and jests, Walsh and his band rocked. There was no slouch. No idle jamming while they figured out what to do or where to go next in a medley or set. They rocked. The truth Walsh and his band showed us in that little bar? They’re highly skilled musicians who love to rock. That’s what Walsh filled the stage with that night, all six foot four of him: he’s a superlative country-rock musician, through and through.
I highly recommend catching Nigel Walsh & The Last Band on Earth, their performance schedule can be found at nigelwalsh.com and you can sample Nigel’s music on Spotify, Band Camp and other platforms, but trust me, much like I said about The Dear Hunter ages ago and as I say about musicians that are truly special and worth your attention: Walsh and his band blow the roof off when they’re on stage and in your face.