Willy Vlautin with The Delines, and Fernando in support, last played The Tunnels in November 2014 and that was a brilliant gig.
Last night's return had Fernando playing a sweet set with long time recording and performing partner guitarist Dan Eccles [also from RF]. So much of the material Fernando played consisted of gentle ballads so this highlights his wonderful vocal but also quality as a performer because it is hard, it seems to me, to engage an audience - as he did fully - with that kind of thoughtful, meditative pace, as you might expect in a totally acoustic folk setting. It has to be said that Eccles' amped-up guitar work adds phenomenal depth to the live presentation of Fernando's great songs, including covers, and the reverb/tremolo he gets from vibrating the neck is amazing
This return also had Willy now with long-time band Richmond Fontaine playing on their farewell tour, and songs from their final album You Can't Go Back If There's Nothing To Go Back To featured throughout: those familiar plaintive Vlautin narratives in Wake Up Ray, I Can't Black It Out If I Can't Wake Up, I Got Off The Bus and A Night In The City. These are so moving in their storytelling core, but the band playing live fill this out with other emotional depths, with Freddy Trujillo on thumping bass and some lovely harmony vocals, and the great Sean Oldham on backbone drums and also vocal duties. Eccles is again so influential in this, the haunting resonance of his guitar work on A Night in the City a fine example. And as a whole tight band! In addition to these musical vignettes, the band rocked in older, earlier RF numbers [and hard-core fans from that past clearly enjoyed this selection from the archives] as well as from a Ventures-esque instrumental to a psychedelic jam like The Door's The End in Apocalypse Now.
But I hope they all return again in whatever formation brings them back to the UK.
My reviews of both Fernando's latest here and Richmond Fontaine's here.