Plays guitar like a god? Sings like a soul wonder? Holds an audience in his hand? It must be Diesel.
Alright, that sounds sycophantic, but even on his lesser nights, Diesel rouses a crowd with a well-executed blend of rock, heartfelt vocals and blues ballads. Frequently mixed with a touch of melodious pop, there’s now also a nod to Gaelic musicality, courtesy of recent contributions from Canadian collaborator Tim Chaisson, who was the very capable support act on Friday night at The Gov.
With a portfolio of songs that most of the crowd knew well, at least enough to chime in forcefully on each chorus, Diesel’s performance was understandably short on wooing and quickly into consummation.
A visceral trio of tunes including “One More Time” and the enduring “Soul Survivor” led to a more relaxed “By Your Throne” from the new Let It Fly album, this last complete with Diesel’s plunking banjo and Chaisson on fiddle bringing some hoedown to The Gov. In fact, Chaisson remained on stage for much of the show thereafter.
“Last Shower”, co-written on Skype by the pair, was straight-ahead pop and unremarkable. It was easily eclipsed by “Don’t Need Love” (his first single back in 1988, as Johnny Diesel), which laid anguished strains of utterly bluesy slide guitar over Lee Moloney’s freight-train drum rhythms.
“Moneymaker”, also from the new CD, was simple, thumping rock with the reverb wound way up. What do you after all that muscularity? You pull back into the tender zone with “15 Feet of Snow”, a beautifully measured song of love and loss.
Guitar solos stayed on the soul side of blues, Chaisson added fiddle (a sweet intro to “Tip of My Tongue”, for example), and Richie Vez anchored on bass and vocals through the 90-minute set. It frequently showed that Diesel is restlessly inventive, altering the introductions to well-known tunes and playing with different arrangements.
At the end, the audience was on its feet for the scintillating and lengthy “Cryin’ Shame”, many waving phone-app candle-flames to and fro. You may not want to go that length, but there is no disputing that Diesel crams a lot into a show, and it lifts the spirits.
Diesel played at the Governor Hindmarsh Hotel on Friday night as part of a tour promoting his new album Let it Fly.
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