Live Review: Gregory Alan Isakov & Joe Purdy The Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London. 4.12.2018

Support for last night’s Gregory Alan Isakov came in the form of one Joe Purdy.

A funny, talented, charismatic troubadour. A 2018 embodiment of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Woody Guthrie rolled into one. Singing wonderful songs. Making us laugh, before, during and after his songs. If ever a man was on this earth to roam, sing and tell stories, it’s this man. He has released 14 albums and says on his last one he has learned to stop singing just about himself and start showing he cares about politics and the world. And lost half his audience in so doing! He got great laughs and cheers and was a really perfect way to start the evening. After he finished his last chords, he said ‘next my dear friend Gregory Alan Isakov is going to play you the prettiest music you’ll ever hear’

Here’s Joe Purdy is in Paris a couple of nights ago.


After about a 30 minute gap where old time music played through the PA, the lights faded and a lone figure, wearing his now traditional hat walked onto the stage with his guitar. Gregory played a song and explained half way through the the boys would be joining him soon and things would get more cheery.

In fact, while he was still playing, on the dark stage with a lone spot light shining on him the band could be seen walking to their places. They then joined in, mid song, so effortlessly and beautifully, the hairs on my neck stood on end. Drums on a riser (and a drummer who looked very like Justin Vernon) playing with beaters and shaking shakers, a seated banjo player who also played a semi acoustic guitar and triggered a few other sounds, a bass player who sang high backing vocals and also played a stand-up bass and a violin player who made ghostly and often high pitched, beautiful sounds. And then of course, Gregory Alan Isakov. Gregory’s voice is wonderful, his guitar playing, sublime. The music they make together is lush and measured. Peaks and lows. The lighting of the show subtle and delicate. Giving the impression we were watching men play music on a winter’s night out on the prairie. A back drop, a black and white photo taken through rain soaked glass of a strange shape silhouetted against a dark sky adds space and atmosphere.

At one point the band all crowd round an old fashioned microphone and sing acoustically. The harmonies are gorgeous.

Gregory sings solo. The band re join him. They perform pretty much all, if not all of, of the current, gorgeous’Electric Machines‘ album. They remind me of Calexico. If you haven’t heard his music yet, I would urge you to check him out. Your time will not be wasted.

‘Sad songs make me happy. They make you happy too, don’t they? That’s why we’re all here.’

This is live from a couple of months ago, ‘Dark, Dark, Dark‘.


And from the ‘Electric Machines’ album, ‘San Luis‘.

This is a really nice article and interview with him from ‘The Denver Post’.

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