An Evening with John Garcia: Camden Underworld, London

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Two acts, two guitars, no drum kits and three leather sofas. This might well be the most sedate gig London’s Camden Underworld has ever seen. Former Kyuss frontman John Garcia is back in the capital, but this time on a short unplugged tour billed as “An Evening With”. So instead of a full band we have leather sofas and War Drum’s Ehren Groban playing acoustic.

Despite the name suggesting otherwise, Bellhound Choir is a one guitar project from Denmark. The perfect kind of jam for a hot sunny beach around a campfire, and a fitting warm up for the night with Christian Hede Madsen’s smooth baritone and sparse guitar create a mellow combo of dark country and blues.

Where some metal musicians – for example Zakk Wylde – are known for their acoustic leanings, this is new territory for Garcia. Going unplugged allows the former Slo Burn/Hermano/Unida/Vista Chino frontman to show off a more sensitive side to his vocals in a way that’s only occasionally been hinted at on record. He’s always had a quality voice and a back catalogue filled with stoner classics and the stripped back sound allows Garcia to take centre stage from the comfort of his leather recliner and shine.

We get a few cuts from the new self-titled Garcia album; tracks like ‘The Bld’ and ‘Her Bullets Energy’ work well as mellow campfire numbers, but much like on record it’s the jumping riffs of the Danko Jones-penned ‘5,000 Miles’ that stand out as one of the best. The original numbers penned for this tour and potentially new album are a more straight ahead mellow acoustic numbers, but ‘Phototropic’ shows off Groban’s skill with an acoustic guitar; employing a series of loops to really build the layers of the song into something special, while his solo spot shows off some real Spanish classical flair.

Unsurprisingly it’s the Kyuss numbers that get the biggest cheers of the night, culminating in a one-two of ‘Green Machine’ and ‘Space Cadet’. Still sounding fresh even after 20 years, the old classics translate well to acoustic. Garcia still has a great set of pipes on him, but despite being a good show, the trouble with finishing on such a high note, however, is that it brings up that eternal question: when the hell are we going to get a proper Kyuss reunion?

 

WORDS BY DAN SWINHOE