Pete Gow & The Siren Strings at The Square Tower, Old Portsmouth REVIEW: 'Heartbreak and the perfidious nature of love are the standard settings'
The set opens with Pete Gow centre stage singing and playing guitar alongside organ, bass and drums.
The song, Strip For Me, sets the tone with its bittersweet, melancholic Americana. And quite honestly, just the four-piece alone would have been enough.
But halfway through the song, the four violinists and cellist who comprise The Siren Strings kick in for the first time and an already beautiful track is elevated to a different plane.
Over the course of more than a decade and four albums Gow fronted the critically acclaimed roots-rock act Case Hardin. This tour is ostensibly in support of his solo debut – Here There’s No Sirens which was released in April, but as he admits, they have already ‘accidentally’ recorded a new album, The Fragile Line, which they have pressed up a few copies of and are only available at these gigs.
Sirens’ title track mentions The Pogues, and on record it fades out to a snatch of the Irish band’s song A Rainy Night in Soho. Here, the band simply play that outro themselves, and it’s an effective trick.
Gow jokes that if anyone knows where Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan is he owes him about 46p in royalties.
Heartbreak and the perfidious nature of love are Gow’s standard setting – a perfect example is when he highlights a line from second song of the night, Mikaela: ‘Songs are like tattoos, you should think before you name one after a girl.’
That’s not to say this is a maudlin affair. Gow is a self-deprecating host, and as he declares, jokingly, towards the end: ‘We don’t care if you’re enjoying we’re having a whale of a time,’ the packed house’s response would suggest they’re not the only ones having a good night.
Over the course of the show all the songs on the brace of albums get an airing bar one. And for fans of his old work, one of those is an epic reworking of Poet's Corner which now features on The Fragile Line. It’s the only nod of the evening to his former outfit.
The new album appears to largely pick up where Sirens left off, but there are a couple of more uptempo, if not upbeat, songs in the shape of Torniquet and Let’s Make War a Little Longer.
They finish with a wry run through of Warren Zevon’s Lawyers Guns and Money.
Rarely has spending a Friday night being reduced to emotional rubble been so enjoyable.