Americana singer-songwriter Israel Nash at The Islington, London on 22 February 2017

Israel Nash played an intimate, stripped-down acoustic set for his London fans, while on tour supporting Band of Horses.

When people talk about intimate gigs it is usually code for “no one showed up”, but occasionally well-known artists will do a small, sometimes secret, show in the middle of a major tour. Americana singer-songwriter Israel Nash, and his band, is currently touring Europe as support for Band of Horses.

On the rest day of the sold-out London leg of the tour, Nash gave the rest of his band the night off and put on a gig at The Islington in Angel. Anyone who has attended the venue will be able to tell you that audience space is not that much bigger than the performance area, which does fulfil the requirements of it being described as intimate.

The evening opened with a solo set of country-flavoured songs by Australian Juanita Stein, the singer with Howling Bells. Having released her debut album ‘America‘ Juanita says “This record is an ode to the dark heart of America. Of times gone and times to come. Dusty trails, a whimsical 50s suburbia and the haze of the 1960s. I’ve forever idealised American life, having grown up in Australia we were fed the American dream through film and television. The dichotomy between what was real and a dream is forever intriguing to me. The music of Roy Orbison, Dusty Springfield, Lee and Nancy and Patsy Cline all informed my musical sensibilities. They opened up this wide screen universe for me.”

For his set, Israel was accompanied by his longtime collaborator, pedal steel guitarist Eric Swanson. The pair went through songs from Israel’s latest album, and some of his previous releases.

Israel said he loved to play these small venues, where he could really connect with the audience, and there was definitely a brilliant rapport that seemed to elevate the performance, despite its stripped back nature.

Towards the end of the set, they brought a couple of stools onto the stage and performed some songs completely unplugged, much to the pleasure of the audience. Ignoring the pretence of walking off stage before returning for the obligatory encore, the duo finished the set by bringing on a couple of extra guitars, which they handed to a couple volunteers from the audience, who they joined in the middle of the crowd for a singalong version of I Shall be Released.

This style of Americana singer-songwriters are a dime a dozen, so great songs and great stage presence are the key to success and Israel Nash has that in spades, as was witnessed by the lucky few present at The Islington.

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