Okkervil River – Nottingham Rescue Rooms, Thursday September 10.
They may not be household names, but the Texan six-piece Okkervil River have steadily built up a dedicated, diligent following in this country, especially following the critical acclaim that followed their breakthrough album, The Stage Names. Returning to Nottingham after a well received show at the Bodega in 2007, the band started their set in a controlled, almost subdued manner, their melodic country-rock influences well to the forefront.
Just as the audience were settling into an evening of gentle, understated pleasures, the mood started to shift. The stark, poetic ballad A Stone silenced the chatter at the edges of the room, as band leader Will Sheff held us rapt with his confessional, bruised delivery. Then it was straight into the exultant, galvanising John Allyn Smith Sails, with its crowd-pleasing lifts from the old Beach Boys standard, Sloop John B.
This signalled a second half of raw, ragged fervour, climaxing with Our Life Is Not A Movie Or A Maybe – still the band’s best number – and the surging, riff-driven Unless It’s Kicks. Although the raggedness sometimes spilled over into unfocussed sloppiness, it was abundantly clear that Okkervil River’s audience preferred them this way.