Although we already knew that Damian was making music with the wonderful jazz band Kansas Smitty’s and that there was talk about making an album, Damian’s return to stage with a guitar in his hands has been the most exciting and happy surprise of the year! I was extremely lucky to be at Damian’s first ever gig at Omeara London where our ‘Ginger Elvis’ ruled the stage with his originals as well as some great covers. And here is every single detail I remember from that special evening! ENJOY!
First things first. I owe thanks to a couple of people for making this post possible. To Lewisto for volunteering to take pictures and record videos so I can relax and enjoy the show. He is the best life partner one could ask for. To Vincent and Irene, and Bianca, for agreeing to share their pictures and videos they had with Fan Fun. It was great hanging out with them! And last but not the least, to Gingersnap for helping me to translate some of the lyrics! She is the best blog partner one could ever imagine.
Now, this is not a typical music review. Firstly, I am neither a musician nor a music critic. I cannot play an instrument but the recorder. Secondly, I am biased about Damian. I believe the guy is ridiculously talented, and I love his voice to the extent that I would be happy to hear him read the phone book all day. Thirdly, for the professional reviewers, this gig is naturally one of the many they have to cover so they focus on a couple of things and can miss some important details; whereas for me, this concert is the highlight of the year 🙂
As the critics find “bluesy rock’n’roll” and “mellow jukebox Americana” I find LOVE in Damian’s performance. The set list curated by Damian and his fantastic band, several of whom are regulars on Kansas Smitty’s House Band – David Archer on guitar, Joe Webb on piano, Giacomo Smith on alto sax and clarinet, Will Cleasby on drums plus Will Sach on bass and Kitty Liv on harmonica) is all about laughter, fun, romance, tears, loss, and longing for a loved one – for a woman that is much much loved and much much missed. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, what I find in Damian’s music – both in his originals and some very carefully curated covers – is a tribute to his little one, his duchess, his one and only Helen. And I cannot wait to share all of it with you.
When Damian tweeted to invite us all to his first gig at Omeara, I probably broke all records in speed with which one buys a ticket…
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) July 8, 2022
….and within a few minutes I had my tickets! Because… why not?! 🙂
So… when do you typically go to a club when they say doors open at 7pm? 7ish, eh? Maybe even later if you will skip the opening band. Me, too. But not for Damian. And it is not only because Damian told us via his lovely PA that Cherise is excellent, we should hear her, too, if we can but also his Twitter tease earlier in the day motivated us to go early and get in the mood for the evening!
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) August 4, 2022
In short: Lewisto and I are there at 5:30 determined to be the first two people to get through those club doors!
Hey – can anyone smile bigger?
Minutes later, we meet Bianca, a ginger lady who loves gingers, and Vincent and Irene, who came all the way from Netherlands to hear Damian 🙂 We hit it off immediately and join forces to form the front row five for the night! Well, we all know that solidarity is the only way to keep your precious spot in a crowded music hall when you need to go pee!!! 🙂 And this is a sold-out gig!
The fantastic arched main room is all set for the evening when we finally got there with a printed set list on the stage floor. We first think it could be the set list for Cherise’s opening act, but as soon as I read the title of the opening song, I know right away this is Damian’s: Little One <3
I know you all want to read about Damian’s performance, but I really have to say a few words about Cherise first. She has a lot of soul, a stunning voice, and poetic songs. She started with her version of “A Few of My Favorite Things” and I particularly loved “Rise” the last song she sang for us. Inspired by her Jamaican grandmother, who always told her that she would rise, Cherise wrote this song about optimism. And I can tell you that she is going places. No wonder she received JazzFM’s Vocalist of the Year Award and Parliamentary Jazz Awards’ Vocalist of the Year Award in 2020. You can follow her on Instagram.
It is time! Here’s Damian looking good in all black and his fabulous Elvis shoes – apt for someone who thought he was the second coming of Elvis until about he was 18 years old! Oh, and may I just say some of us are happy to see his scruff 🙂
And they take it away with… “Little One” <3
“There are people in this room who know who just this song was about.”
YES, THERE ARE. And I am certainly one of them.
“Little One“ is a happy song, a celebration of who Helen is. A petite lady (“she is only 5 foot tall”) who is formidable (“she punches like a heavyweight, could eat you up for breakfast”, “she growls like a hurricane”), loud (“how can she seem so loud? I can hear her in a crowd”), energetic (“how can she walk so fast?”), lovely (“she’s got a smile that’ll light the sky up”) and much more. And he loves her. Love grows, evolves, and changes shape over time. Life must go on, Damian will live on, and Helen will always be a part of him.
“Hey. You. Are. At. Our First. Ever. Gig. Thank you.”
Damian goes straight into song number 2 “Hole in My Roof” which also has Helen written all over it. The song is all about having a hole in your roof, in your head when you have loss in your life. One feels all the feelings in his deep, husky voice.
“You and me should be together ’til the end.
So bye bye, baby, I can’t wait to see your smile again.”
I’m not crying, you’re crying!
I think my biggest fantasy has always been for Damian to sing for me, and when you are front row and center, even though he is singing for 300+ people in the room, I feel like he is singing for me. Oh and what is that? I get a wink from him! 🙂 He probably notices me in the first row and goes “but of course” 😀 😀 😀 Poor guy!
Damian takes us back to his busking days in his 20s in song number 3 “Zaragoza”.
Sure, he says, he did the tubes, too. But, Damian adds, unlike Elvis who tracked for 5 years at The International (In case you don’t know, like me, what Damian is talking about here: Gingersnap has told me about how Elvis was stuck at the International Hotel in Vegas for 5 years because of a shady contract and added that the new Elvis movie has a complete discussion of this story), he did not allow the tunnels of Leicester Square to hold him back! So Damian typically spent summers in the South of France… and sometimes he went to Spain.
He put a tent and a guitar on his motorbike and was off to busking in market squares of Southern Europe.
One night he judges badly as he crossed the Pyrenees. He builds his tent in the middle of a storm, and realizes, as darkness fell, that water is coming through the roof… and as the storm rages, he wonders…
“Zaragoza, here I come.”
Then comes song number 4 “Solo Tango” – a beautiful ballad about a first meeting, walking on Soho streets together rolling cigarettes, and just talking – with a serious whistle solo…
“It’s funny when you get a bit nervous and your mouth gets a bit dry and you come to the point in the song where you are supposed to whistle. Didn’t anticipate that.”
Well, there is a first for everything, Damian 😀
Next comes song number 5 “Down Under the Bowery” – a deeply romantic tune in which one lover invites his other half to climb up him like a vine and join to him like a twin.
Song number 6 is the first cover of the evening. Here comes a love ballad from Neil Young: “Harvest Moon.”
But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night
Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon
And I can’t help remember this…. Do the shoes look familiar to you? <3
Time for a commercial break in the middle – song number 7 🙂
Damian talks about A Spy Among Friends, the cold war era mini-series that is coming to ITVX possibly in November. And we find out that Nick Murphy, the series’ director, and Damian’s friend and fellow Liverpool fan is also in the room with us. Damian says this next song “Never Judge A Man By His Umbrella” is about deceit and treachery…
…So, as someone who follows everything Damian quite closely, let me give you a little trivia here: Never Judge A Man By His Umbrella is the title of a memoir written by former MI-6 Nicholas Elliott, the very man Damian is portraying in A Spy Among Friends! And yes I have a copy and I have read it already!
Damian takes over as the pianist now!
Ahead of song number 8, Damian says he should not have agreed to the whistle. And he should not have agreed to the mascara…
“Ladies what do I do?”
Maybe a little piano solo? Song number 8 “Little Trip to Heaven”, an early Tom Waits song, gives me a lump in the throat. The whistle solo is so very sweet and gets a well-deserved applause from the crowd!
You’re my north star when I’m lost and feeling blue
The sun is breaking through the clouds don’t you, don’t you know it’s true?
Honey, all the other stars seem dim around you
Thanking my lucky stars that I’ve found you
When I see your smiling face, honey
I know nothing ever going to take your place, and it’s youAnd it’s you, and it’s you, and it’s you, and it’s you, and it’s you…
And by the end of this little trip to heaven, I admit I should not have agreed to the mascara, either…
Damian thanks Omeara for having him and his band here and makes a tribute to the beautiful arched room with a musical reference:
“Underneath the arches!”
Damian continues with song number 9, another original titled “Wanna Grow Old in Paris”, and then grabs his electro guitar and tells us that we’d take it up a notch now. And we all dance to song number 10 “Makin’ Plans.”
The penultimate song in the set list is absolutely one of my favorites. I love the entire spectrum of jazz but I am so in love with New Orleans sound which is all over Jelly Roll Morton’s “Why.” And the clarinet solo by Damian’s collaborator, friend and producer Giacomo Smith, aka the leader of Kansas Smitty’s Band, is simply amazing.
The final song “She Comes” is a truly great song. And once you hear the lyrics, you know what it is about.
She comes as a blackbird, she comes as a fox.
She sits at the window, she sings from a rock.
She’s the moon in the day and the sun that shines in the dark.
She rests in me and she rests in shade.
She’s my joy, she’s my pain and she rained on me.
And it is good to know that the music critic of Sunday Times agrees with me about “She Comes”:
“…he closed on a high with a superb folk-rock track that began as a gently tumbling waltz before building to a crashing, emotionally raw blast. This was the best song of the night, sounding like a lost Jeff Buckley classic in places.”
YES. Raw. That is the word I’ve been looking for to describe the kind of emotion the song has instilled in me – an open wound that needs time to heal.
When someone asked Steve Abbott, Damian’s manager, about what kind of music Damian plays on Twitter, this was Mr. Abbott’s response.
Roots blues type of thing , JJ Cale ?
— abbo / Steve Abbott (@bedlambaby) July 8, 2022
And, ladies and gents, the encore of the evening comes from J. J. Cale – a song you may know as one that Eric Clapton sings because Cale wrote the song in 1966, Clapton covered it on his debut studio album in 1970 that made the song popular. And so J.J. Cale re-recorded it for his album Naturally in 1971 – the year Damian was born!
Here is “After Midnight.”
We’re gonna let it all hang out
Gonna shake your tambourine
After midnight it’s gonna be peaches and cream, hmm
We’re gonna cause talk and suspicion
Give an exhibition
Find out what it is all about”
And Damian does it again as he is leaving the stage…
“I’m Daniel Day Lew… Oh shit! I’m Damian Lewis. Thanks for coming!”
😀 😀 😀
Well, the period of time between the band leaving the stage and me picking Damian’s set list could be the shortest time measured in history. And you think I am weird because I have stolen the set list? Then what would you say about the lady who picked the towel Damian used during the concert?!?! Do you think she will ever wash that? I am still laughing!!!
Here is the set list I grabbed from the stage. The ginger man signed it with my eye pencil because it was the only pencil in my bag 🙂
And if you want to understand the first word Damian has written here, watch the video below!!!!
He knows how to make you feel special, and I am grateful. Tesekkur, Damian <3 I am a very happy girl!
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) August 5, 2022
Well, I agree that the audience definitely rocked but it is because Damian ROCKED the gig! The entire evening, from the opening act through after drinks, felt like a family and friends night at the club because Damian made everyone feel that. He made time for everyone who wanted a moment with him. He had selfies with fans. He chatted with them. As we were leaving, like an hour after the gig was over, Damian could finally find his way to the table where his family sat outside the bar. He and his dad had a big hug. Damian’s older brother William and his wife, his sister Amanda with whom I had the pleasure of meeting, his kids Manon and Gulliver, and others who love and care about him were all there to support him. It was such an extraordinary evening and I feel privileged to have shared it with them.