It has taken three years for Sam Outlaw to come back to the UK. The Omeara gig to kick off the Popular Mechanics tour was the first time he played some of the tracks from the new album live anywhere in the world. Running on fumes having landed in London that morning, Sam powered through a 90-minute set which included old favourites and plenty of new stuff.
‘I never thought I’d miss touring!’ Sam told the crowd, asking him to join in with a celebratory shout of YEAH! Without the support of Bob Harris, he said, Sam might not even have anyone to see him, and it must be said that the crowd were mostly of Bob’s vintage.
This was grown-up country music, with a pedal steel guitar player dovetailing with three acoustic guitars, one wielded by support act Ruthie Collins, whose version of It Must Have Been Love by Roxette threatened to steal the show from Sam.
In a smart shirt and hat, Sam played the old tunes he has sung a thousand times before, including the gorgeous Tenderheart, the sombre Ghost Town and the mellifluous Bougainvillea, I Think. There were also rich cheers for the title track of his debut album Angeleno, and warm applause for several new tunes.
Rest of Our Lives was a shrewd choice of first single from the new album, and it was the highlight of the set thanks to some three-part harmonies and a driving rhythm that didn’t need any percussion. We also heard Polyamorous and the marvellous Language of Love (which has a key change!). This last song reminded me of tunes by Fountains of Wayne; the late Adam Schlesinger, who was the band’s frontman, has to be an influence on Sam’s work.
Molly Parden showed off a fashionable shoulder bag as she hopped onstage for a duet. A family friend, Molly had played Omeara (‘not O-me-ah-ra!’ as Sam chastised himself) a few days before Sam and she had stayed in town just to see him before heading back to the USA. How amazing must it be to have a job where you can meet friends onstage thousands of miles away from home.
In reality, we in Britain have adopted Sam as one of ours and he’ll be welcome back any time his family schedule allows.
Sam Outlaw tours the UK until March 28