Support act The Hooten Hallers are a pleasant surprise.
A trio of saxophone, stand-up drummer and a guitarist with a voice like sandpaper, their genre-grab bag is a rollicking ride which goes down well.
Hailing from Missouri, this is apparently their first visit to our shores. Let’s hope it’s not their last.
But it’s clearly the headliners that this crowd is rabid for.
The Dead South have built a formidable live reputation. Playing bluegrass on steroids, they embrace the spirit and passion of punk, and this four-piece from Saskatchewan, Canada, are a well-drilled act.
READ MORE: The Dead South on their biggest UK tour to date
They can stop on a dime – as they prove in the song Dirty Juice, where they literally turn into statues mid-track, stopping dead for several seconds before kicking straight back into life in perfect unison.
With its refrain of ‘I just want liquor and dirty whores, because I don’t care no more’, the song which gives this tour its name – That Bastard Son, is a rousing singalong.
Gothic Americana abounds, but there’s also levity amid the talk of Satan, hard-drinking, bad women and death.
Led by guitarist/vocalist Scott Pringle, the smile-inducing Time For Crawlin’ is introduced as a song about drinking too much and having to beg your partner to let you back into the house.
Meanwhile Deep When The River’s High builds to an jaw-dropping climax that would give plenty of metal bands a run for their money. Not bad for an acoustic act.
Nominal frontman Nate Hilt’s voice is an expressive tool which can switch from throaty roar to a raspy croon as needed, with effective harmonies from the rest of the band.
Their best-known song, In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company, sees cellist Danny Kenyon perform his whistling-and-bass intro alone, while his bandmates down tools, pop open beers and take swigs in perfect synchronisation to the beat. It’s a nice touch.
READ MORE: Gangstagrass combine hip-hop and bluegrass
The encore of Banjo Odyssey, about what would politely be referred to as kissing cousins, adds humour to the twang of the titular instrument, played with impressive precision throughout by Colton Crawford.
Given that their albums have yet to really trouble the charts here, it’s impressive just how many people in the crowd are word-perfect on every song.
And with their carefully cultivated image – all black ties and braces with white shirts, black jeans, and broad-rimmed hats, they could have stepped directly out of the wild west. Hell, if the mooted film of the gritty cult TV western show Deadwood ever goes ahead, The Dead South would be the ideal bar band for Al Swearengen’s Gem Saloon.
The old south may not rise again, but who knows how far these boys from the north can go? Given that less than a year ago they packed out The Wedgewood Rooms, and this time they comfortably sold out a venue more than twice the size, the sky’s the limit.