It's not every night you get to see a Hollywood star perform in a band at The Phoenix, a local music venue situated in the heart of Exeter, tonight was that night!
Whilst it's not uncommon to see movie stars appearing in bands (Jared Leto - 30 Seconds to Mars, Johnny Depp - Playing guitar for Marilyn Manson, Keanu Reeves - Dogstar), it's certainly not commonplace and when you hear of one playing on your doorstep, you just HAVE to be there.
You may know this celebrity for his parts in movies such as Stand By Me, The Lost Boys, Young Guns and Flatliners but it will be his character Jack Bauer in hit TV series '24' that has probably made him a household name, yes folks, KIEFER SUTHERLAND was in town with his band and Exeter was getting VERY excited.
Tickets went on sale for the show a few months back and sold out in record time, people contacted me to ask if it was a genuine show and if it was the REAL Kiefer Sutherland who would be performing, I explained that this was NOT a joke and by the time they had gone back in to bag a ticket, they were all gone!
I'm not sure how long he has been in a band but I know that his debut album Down in a Hole was released in August 2016 and reached #18 on the Americana/Folk album chart and #35 on the Country chart and this was followed up with his sophomore release Reckless & Me in April 2019 which managed to bother the Top Ten in both the Scottish and UK album charts. Both records were received well by the music press, proving that Kiefer isn't just a one trick pony!
The Phoenix was buzzing with excitement as we arrived and amongst the people at the bar, I counted a few ‘24’, ‘Lost Boys’ and even a ‘Young Guns’ T-Shirt, I wondered to myself if they even knew that Kiefer was in a band….
Opening up the evening was a firm favourite of mine, The Goat Roper Rodeo Band who played their unique blend of alternative country blues fused together with some of the lushest vocal harmonies you will ever hear from a male trio. Tracks such as ‘Old Heartache’ and ‘Old Joanna’ brought back memories of seeing them a couple of years back whereas new offerings such as ‘Desert Flower’ and ‘High Heel Blues’ had me wanting to find out more about their latest album Tall Grass which landed in March. I did check it out and can confirm it’s an absolute scorcher and I urge you to go and buy it….NOW!
After a short break, the auditorium started to fill once again and as we were shuffling in, Kiefer ad his band took to the stage to rapturous applause. They looked good, sounded on form and had a bunch of songs to play for us.
It is not uncommon for a ‘star’ to hide behind his ego and often not contribute much to the performance, I am glad to say that tonight was the polar opposite, Kiefer happily engaged in amusing banter between songs and offered explanations to some of the key songs on the setlist. He introduced ‘Reckless and Me’ as a song about travelling through the night with his horse (Reckless) back in his rodeo days and often stopped to wonder if the song was actually a reflection of his life at the time.
Sutherland explained how he was influenced by the late Johnny Cash, who was keen to write songs about prison inmates, ‘Shirley Jean’ was a song written about an inmates last night in prison before he faced the chair the next day was a real standout moment.
‘Open Road’ was dedicated to the crew and drivers that do everything they can to keep the show on the road, ferrying everyone about all over the world and setting up the stage every night, he made a point of thanking them which again, for such a star, was quite humbling to see.
Whilst he doesn’t normally play a lot of cover versions on his records or live, it was great to see a couple sneaking onto the list for tonight’s performance, first up we had the upbeat country classic ‘Blame it on Your Heart’ by Patty Loveless and during the encore, a great version of Dylan’s classic ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ which took us to the end of the show. Kiefer took time out to mention that the reason they chose this song was because his father (Donald Sutherland) used to have it on an 8 track player in his Ferrari which he won during a card game on the shoot for Kelly’s Heroes and it was a track that both Kiefer and his sister grew up listening to every time they were in the car!
Fortunately, there were no incidents in Exeter whilst he was on stage, he did reply to a heckler at the start of the show who asked where Jack Bauer was, chuckling to himself as he said that he was tied up with electrical wire in the dressing room out back!
I didn’t expect a groundbreaking evening of music but I left feeling pleasantly surprised at what I had witnessed throughout the evening, a good mixture of country, rock, bluesy guitar licks and heartfelt ballads, oh, and don’t forget the chance of seeing a Hollywood actor on stage in front of you, barely 20 feet away, that was pretty epic too!
Review by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Rhodri Cooper
To see ALL of the photos from the show, tap HERE