The time machine complex in music is perplexing. Sometimes bands sound ahead of their time(especially in retrospect) and sometimes it feels like a band’s sound was plucked right out of a previous decade. The latter is the case for California’s Nick Waterhouse who has found a way to sound like a 50s era R&B band.
Not to say that Waterhouse is copying anyone because that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. He has a very unique sound all to his own, especially among the current musical landscape. The freewheeling singer is a supreme vocalist and more than knows his way around a few guitar chords as well. His assembles his bands carefully it too, paying close attention to have the musicians with both the technicals skill and improvisational talents to follow him.
An artist such as this is in their element on the west coast but when they play the Midwest it’s such a lovely out of place event that it shouldn’t be missed. When Waterhouse took the stage at the Record Bar on 6/11/17 it wasn’t to a ton of fanfare, he hardly acted or was greeted like a rock star. While tuning his own guitar some people not have recognized him with his newly acquired beard. When his 6 piece band came out the crowd instantly slipped toward the stage curious to see what was in store. With a keyboardist, drummer, electric bass player, saxophonist and backup singer the stage was full and the bands sound was tight and on cue from the first note. Waterhouse would spend the next 80 minutes sampling pretty evenly from his first two albums and hitting his excellent new album “Never Twice” the hardest.
First the California surf band Sadgirl would start the show and prove to be a fantastic opener. The mix of ambient old school prom-rock and Ventures style turn ups paved the way for Waterhouse perfectly. The few fast instrumentals and slow dance numbers like “Breakfast Is Over” is put the crowd in a nice headspace for the headliner.
Waterhouse of course would still steal the show however, big choruses on new songs like “It’s Time” and “Straight Love Affair” make it clear they are some of his most popular material already. The biggest reactions are probably still songs from his first record like “Don’t You Forget It” and “If You Want Trouble.” He would comment on how it’s good luck to have a song named after a woman on each record as he tore into “Holly” and “Tracy” back to back before diving into “Straight Love Affair” which got the crowd moving as much as any song of the evening.
He would introduce his new song cowritten by new soul superstar Leon Bridges called “Katchi” and the crowd would go crazy. “Katchi” is likely the best hook he has in his repertoire and it’s hard to imagine him ever getting to his dressing room again without playing it first. On a slowed down half speed introduction to “I Can Only Give You Everything” Waterhouse would carefully detail his band in almost a beat poet style while the music would never stop. The introduction built anticipation for the song making it better as well. “LA Turnaround” would be dedicated to the aloof Jonathan Richman who Waterhouse cited as a “spiritual inspiration” which upon hearing it made perfect sense. On introducing one song Waterhouse even detailed the crowd stating they it was time for them to dance and “don’t stop until we stop.” By the time the band would later return for the encore they were relaxed and had the slightly dwindling Sunday night crowd in their hands. With the combination of “Our Place” and “Some Place” for the encore it seemed everyone would be satisfied as the new Record Bar neared their midnight curfew.
Nick Waterhouse setlist from The Record Bar in Kansas City, MO 6/11/17:
- I Had Some Money (But I Spent It)
- Dead Room
- Sleeping Pills
- I Can Only Give You Everything
- It’s Time
- Don’t You Forget It
- Straight Love Affair
- Stanyan Street
- It #3
- LA Turnaround
- If You Want Trouble
- Is That Clear
- This Is A Game
- encore break
- The Old Place
- Some Place