Tag Archives: Sons of Anarchy

Review: Curtis Stigers, Dirty Martini, Edinburgh

Curtis Stigers, Dirty Martini, Edinburgh, Monday December 3rd  *****Andrew's pix - 2012 028

The four months which have passed since Curtis Stigers last walked off the stage at the Dirty Martini evaporated in a nanosecond on Monday night when he didn’t so much start a new residency in the opulent, and intimate venue – as pick up where he left off in the summer, greeting the packed audience like old pals, and engaging in the same sort of cosy, often confessorial, banter that had marked his July appearances and helped make them so enjoyable.

Stigers clearly thrives in this “Up Close and Personal” type of gig, accompanied by just guitarist James Scholfield. Not only is there the engagement with an adoring audience which hangs on his every word from an unusually close vantage point, but there’s an informality and looseness to the show, which allows Stigers’s dry sense of humour to flourish – and inspired him on Monday to play well beyond last bus time.

Anyone who heard Stigers in the summer knows that his repertoire spans his old pop hits, more recent singer-songwriter material, original songs and standards from the Great American Songbook. Only at a Stigers gig would you hear the sublime and rarely sung Rodgers and Hart ballad You Are Too Beautiful followed by the US biker drama Sons of Anarchy’s hard rock theme tune, on which Scholfield unleashed his inner Jimi Hendrix to memorable effect.

And the variety doesn’t end there: with his vocals, two saxes and acoustic guitar, plus Scholfield’s electric guitar, there is a rich palette of sounds for Stigers to work with. Consistent throughout, however, were his energy; his gutsy, emotionally honest and utterly mesmerising singing and the rapport between two like-minded, top-notch musicians. If you don’t catch them this week, it surely can’t be long until they’re back …

First published in The Scotsman on Wednesday, December 5th

I

I’ve Been Sleeping With the Light On

On the Streets of New Orleans

Let’s Go Out Tonight

Everyone Loves Lovers

My Centerpiece

You Are Too Beautiful

This Life

Things Have Changed

Lighten Up – It’s Christmas

II

You’re All That Matters To Me

End of the Afternoon

Waltzing’s For Dreamers

You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To

The Christmas Song

Where the Mountains Meet the Sand

I Wonder Why

My Babe/That’s Alright Mama

Into Temptation

What’s So Funny ‘ Bout Peace, Love and Understanding

Goodbye (encore)

Leave a comment

Filed under Concert reviews

The Musical Mixologist

There aren’t many performers who can pack out venues in the same city three times in one year, especially in these cash-strapped times. But Curtis Stigers, whose popularity in Edinburgh is about to hit the legendary level, is one of them. The craggy-voiced singer, guitarist and saxophonist who made his name as a pop star 20 years ago but now purveys his own distinctive “hybrid” style, is returning to the capital next week to take up a short residency at the intimate and decadent-feeling Dirty Martini club at Le Monde, where he thrilled audiences for five nights during the Jazz Festival.

Those five “Up Close and Personal” performances, which were duo concerts with his guitarist James Scholfield, followed a one-nighter with his full band at the Queen’s Hall in March – and similar gigs at the previous two jazz festivals. So it’s fairly safe to conclude that Edinburgh and Mr Stigers have a thing going on – and that rather than fizzling out, it seems to be gaining momentum, especially now they have found a room which provides the ideal setting for close musical encounters.

“I guess I do have a bit of a love affair with this city,” says the eloquent 47-year-old. “Physically, it’s stunning. I think it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world and one that people often overlook. And then there’s the audience. The audiences here are always very warm, and they seem to get my sense of humour – and the kind of music that I’m doing now.”

Of course, Stigers is unique in the music scene as not only does he attract jazz fans and those who have discovered his work during the 13 years since he embarked on this jazz-based, but wide-ranging, phase of his career, but he has also retained a core following from his days as a chart-topping pop singer and pin-up. “There are still people that are along for the ride from back in those days. Some of them I lost because I started experimenting and didn’t stay with the one thing, but a lot of them have stayed with me and were open to following me down some different paths – the jazz especially, and then the hybrids that I’ve been trying to create.”

These hybrids are a natural reflection of Stigers’s own eclectic musical tastes. “My record collection spans the Sex Pistols to Charlie Parker, and everything in between. I like music. I like honest, emotional music. I like great songs. I’ve come to realise that it’s not the jazz singing that attracts me to jazz singers; it’s the way they tell a story.

“Somebody like Sarah Vaughan, even though she sang a lot of notes and was a show-off, it still always came down to the emotion of the song. Even when she was swooping and diving and making all these acrobatic moves as a singer, you were still entranced and enthralled by the story she was telling, by the lyric.”

Stigers’s primary influences as a singer may be Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Nat “King” Cole but he also grew up loving Aretha Franklin and Elton John – and he now appreciates that the songs that Baker, Sinatra and co were singing were effectively pop songs that had been turned into jazz. “So what I’ve been tying to do is take songs from my generation, from different places – from country music, from rock ‘n’ roll, from folk music, from blues, from rhythm and blues, from soul – and then sort of reconstruct them in a somewhat jazz format.”

With his new album, Let’s Go Out Tonight, which he introduced to Edinburgh in March, Stigers has taken the idea a step further: by not just remoulding songs from diverse genres into a jazz format, but by “allowing the folk style, the pop style – musically speaking – to come into my stuff. The songs on this album were chosen strictly on the grounds of whether they were beautiful.” And they reflect the fact that his interest today lies more with singer-songwriters – among those whose work features on the album are Steve Earle,
Richard Thompson and The Blue Nile’s Paul Buchanan (“a brilliant writer”) – than before.

The material Stigers has been performing this year is also very reflective of what’s been happening in his personal life – it was obvious when he introduced the Bob Dylan song Things Have Changed to the Queen’s Hall crowd in March that something had indeed changed in his outlook. “My marriage ended about a year and a half ago,” he explains. “I ended up not using any of my own songs on the record because I never can quite get to the thing that I’m going through until a year or two has passed. I’m good at looking back and then writing my experiences for material. I’m never very good at getting up in the morning and feeling like hell and then writing a song about it.”

Instead, he and his producer Larry Klein put together an album of songs which had taken on new meaning to Stigers in his new, raw, emotional state. “That Dylan song, I’d heard it 100 times before but had always pegged it to the story of the movie it came from (Wonder Boys) but then Larry asked me to consider it and I thought: ‘This is about me’.” The cynical, defiant and aggressive attitude of the song – which comes over much more strongly in Stigers’s live performances – actually helped the singer deal with what he was going through. “Up to that point, I’d been, frankly, pretty beaten up and pretty sensitive and I needed something that pulled me out of the sadness and more into the ‘alright, fuck this – I’m moving on’ stage.”

Wherever he goes next – whether it’s more hard rock (his is the voice on the hit theme song of the phenomenally successful US biker drama Sons of Anarchy), performances with orchestras (he fell in love with singing with strings – “it’s like sex” – thanks to his appearances with the John Wilson Orchestra) or more of these small club, duo gigs – it’s safe to say that Stigers will never be short of an audience. Especially in Edinburgh.

* Curtis Stigers plays the Dirty Martini at Le Monde, George St, on December 3-5 at 9pm each night. For tickets and info (or to book a dinner package), call 0131 270 3939 or email events@lemondehotel.co.uk; or visitwww.dirty-martini.co.uk/curtis.htm or www.ticketmaster.co.uk/curtis 

This article was first published in The Scotsman on November 29

Leave a comment

Filed under Profiles