Ron Sexsmith – Nottingham Rescue Rooms, Tuesday September 6
Ron Sexsmith looked confused. He thought he had played the Rescue Rooms before, but he barely recognised the place. Had something changed, or was it just his failing memory?
His bewilderment was understandable. Now fully refitted and refurbished – even down to the disgusting old toilets, whose passing will not be mourned – the venue looks smarter and more spacious. The bar has been moved to the back, making the auditorium wider and less cramped. There’s a new raised viewing platform along the left hand wall, and the balcony can now be accessed directly from new stairs on the right hand side. Best of all, especially for latecomers to busy shows, the stage has been raised. The lighting has been upgraded, the acoustics are spot-on, and the venue has the air of an old friend who has been given a sleek makeover.
These were ideal conditions to greet the return of one of Canada’s most acclaimed singer-songwriters, whose long career has been given an overdue boost this year, due to a strong new album (Long Player Late Bloomer) and a BBC4 documentary. Although he remains under the radar sales-wise, Ron Sexsmith is widely regarded as something of a “songwriter’s songwriter”. His fans include Paul McCartney, Elton John and Ray Davies, and his songs have been covered by Emmylou Harris, Rod Stewart, Michael Bublé and Feist.
Tousle-haired, moon-faced and stocky, Sexsmith is an understated performer, whose focus is on songcraft rather than showmanship. Stylistically, his music adheres to classic country-rock values, with a certain Anglophile twist that suggests a familiarity with Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello and Dave Edmunds. Gifted with an outstanding knack for melody – the opening track on his new album (Get In Line) has a tune that can lodge itself in your head for days – Sexsmith has a particular penchant for redemptive love songs, which suggest that love can save us from darkness and ease us through troubled times.
Fans old and new absorbed the lengthy set with fond reverence, warm applause, and the smiles of people who felt fortunate to have unearthed such a special talent.