Willy Vlautin has been writing his story songs for close on 20 years now as the creative source and inspiration behind the reflective beauty that is Richmond Fontaine.
Lauded as a true poet and chronicler for everyman, Vlautin has remained steadfast at the forefront of our dance with the devil and our continued need for redemption. His songs are populated by the ordinary characters of life’s fabric who have dotted the landscape of hard earned living on the edges of our broken dreams.
With 12 releases over a career that has seen the band on the cusp of success many times, their ‘less is more’ philosophy has kept them under the media radar and forged a place in cult status history that is all but guaranteed.
Playing their farewell tour in Europe before packing away their memories and disbanding, they deliver a set tonight that has the capacity crowd in this tightly packed venue cheering their every move.
Playing songs from across their extensive catalogue has a real glow of joy for everyone as we get to hear many of our favourites and the intensity of the playing is matched only by the quiet, restrained subtlety of the gentle moments when the band really prove their talents as a superb group of musicians.
Dan Eccles on guitars is credited by Willie Vlautin with having made Richmond Fontaine into ‘a real band’ with his dynamic and sensitive playing, while the rhythm section of Sean Oldham, drums and Freddy Trujillo on bass, joined tonight for the latter part of the set by David Murphy on pedal steel, shine brightly throughout.
The dark underbelly of the American Dream is exposed in songs such as; A Ghost I Became, The Janitor, I Can’t Black it out if I Wake Up and Remember, $87 and a Guilty Conscience, Don’t Skip Out On Me, You Can Move Back Here, Two Alone, Post to Wire, We Used to Think the Freeway Sounded Like a River, Northline, Wake Up Ray, Exit 194b, A Night in the City, Montgomery Park, 43 and Western Skyline.
Vlautin delivers his stories in a resigned vocal style that is full of empathy and pained acceptance but always full of hope for the journey ahead. Was it William Shakespeare who said that ‘parting is such sweet sorrow’?
Well, Willie Vlautin leaves the stage tonight with a simple ‘thanks for letting me do this’ as his parting words – such humility and such understated class. It’s the end of the natural life span of what has been Richmond Fontaine; one of the most iconic alt.country bands in recent generations and one that will be sadly missed.
Review by Paul McGee Photograph by Kaethe Burt O'Dea