The White Buffalo aka Jake Smith plays his first show in the North East of England, in support of his critically acclaimed album, Love and the Death of Damnation.
Jake Smith’s rise to fame is due in part to the cult TV show, Sons of Anarchy, which has featured as many as nine of his songs throughout the course of it’s run. Subsequently, tonight’s show has long since been sold out.
In a week where the local newspaper is reporting that the city will have warmer weather than Hawaii, it doesn’t take long for the intimate surroundings of the O2 Academy Newcastle to get rather hot and sweaty. The room so full that you couldn’t possibly shoehorn another person in if you tried, and on a school night too.
There has been somewhat of a groundswell in roots and Americana music in the UK in recent times, and The White Buffalo is most certainly riding the crest of that wave. Smith is not your usual roots artist; don’t be fooled by his cool and calm exterior and the acoustic guitar. He and his compatriots can certainly make some noise with the best of them. The lineup includes bass player Ryan Rehm and drummer Matt Lynott, who form a particularly potent power trio, with Rehm complementing Smith with some nice vocal harmonies.
As The White Buffalo takes to the stage, he launches straight into “Dark Days” which immediately grabs your attention. He sings with such power and authority; his songs are real, his lyrics are genuine, and the crowd feel’s an immediate connection. There is a real timeless quality to this music.
Heartfelt numbers like “Love Song #1,” which Smith wrote for his wife many years ago, and “I Got You,” a beautiful duet recorded with Audra Mae intersperse the set and highlight the calibre of The White Buffalo’s songwriting. Smith sings the latter on his own this evening, and it works equally as well.
The set picks up the pace with the frantic “Joey White” and the anthemic “Modern Times.” The music moves the audience to the point that they hang on every word and dancing ensues in the tightly knit space around them.
The White Buffalo closes his epic nineteen-song career-spanning set with an energetic rendition of “The Pilot” from his 2012 album, Once Upon A Time in the West, leaving the audience screaming out for one more song. But it wasn’t one, but rather a three-song encore which rounded off the night.
For the first two tracks of the encore, Smith returned to the stage without the aid of his band playing “Wish It Was True” and a cover of Jimmy Webb’s “The Highwayman.” The full band returned to finish off the night with “How The West Was Won.”
This concert was the first show in Newcastle for The White Buffalo, but it most certainly won’t be the last. Judging by the response from the audience this evening, this may well be the last time we see Jake Smith perform in such intimate venues as they did this night.