Categories Album Mission Creep Music Review UK Tour 2024

Review: Damian Lewis and Amelie at Trading Boundaries

“There is definitely an open door to go full time as a music star.”

by Steve Best | Music Republic Magazine | March 8, 2024

Photo Cred: Liam Battersby

Psssst….Wanna know a ‘secret?’ There’s a big movie and TV star plotted up in a rural gaff in East Sussex, and circa 190 folk are invited for dinner and drinks.

It’s not a film set or a private showbiz bash – but this venue is lovely enough to be used for one – and as live music venues go, it’s on the more unusual side and perfect for an intimate first date of a UK tour. As “up close and personal” as you can get to…

Screen star and musician Damian Lewis, who is back on the road with his band after Part 1 of their “Mission Creep” tour late last year – and they delivered a very classy set on Friday to a sold out Trading Boundaries venue as first stop on their eight-date trek.

Photo Cred: Liam Battersby

The dinner guests (£85 a ticket) and those who opted for the standing tickets (£35) lapped up Damian’s vocals, guitar and piano skills, airing his self-penned original material from his summer 2023 debut album, “Mission Creep” on the Decca label, some select covers – plus the premiere of some new stuff from his second album, which is due for release towards the end of this year.

Photo Cred: Liam Battersby

Accompanied by a young and talented five-piece band which included the night’s excellent support act Amelie [Watson] on acoustic guitar and backing vocals.

Photo Cred: Liam Battersby

On his last tour here, 11 sold out shows across September, October and November 2023, the wonderful Kitty Liv opened the shows – Damian’s first ever tour – and also joined his band for guitar and BVs. Amelie’s turn this time and she is one to watch for sure.

Photo Cred: Liam Battersby

Following the East Sussex show, Damian and the band stop off at Southend (tomorrow night Sunday 10th March), Watford, Oxford, Stroud, Poole and Norwich before closing at The Junction in Cambridge on 28th March.

Looking ahead to this tour, Damian commented: “Dry January at home? You’ll be itching for some live music by March. I’m here to help. Me and the band are hitting the road again in March for The Mission Creep Tour Part 2. Can’t wait. Come”.

His impressive debut album, “Mission Creep”, made the Top 40 on the UK Official Album Chart and peaked at #2 on the Jazz & Blues Album Chart. Having first announced his plans to record and release his debut album back in 2022, the acting star performed a series of sold-out shows across London.

He also made impressive festival appearances at Wilderness and Black Deer Festival, winning praise from the likes of The Times and The Telegraph, before heading into the recording studio to put the finishing touches to “Mission Creep.” [The title is a military operation term where initial success ratchets into doing a much larger job for a longer time than was originally expected].

Photo Cred: Liam Battersby

Damian wrote all of the original songs on the album during the first lockdown of the pandemic, allowing the continuation of a story that first began when he finished Eton school and took to the road with his guitar, busking through Europe. This experience has stayed with Damian ever since and is reflected in the songs on the album.

While his acting career took over, he never stopped playing, occasionally performing at ‘wrap’ parties as part of a ‘scratch’ band. But with lockdown affording him time and space away from a busy acting schedule, he was able to throw himself into playing and writing songs – with the additional maturity and experience that an eventful life has given him, the ideas started to flow.

Photo Cred: Liam Battersby

Once the songs were complete, Damian presented them to his friend Giacomo Smith, a top American jazz musician. Smith liked what he heard and gave his pal all the encouragement he needed, offering to produce the album.

The pair then set about putting a band together, with Smith introducing Lewis to an array of skilled musicians, many of whom had played with Smith in Kansas Smitty’s House Band.

On its release, “Mission Creep” received highly favourable reviews, with The Daily Telegraph describing it as “Romantic, offbeat, witty, wise, very touching and unarguably accomplished”.

There were a slew of songs from the album in the 18-song set list – including three encore songs – such as “Hole in My Roof” and the show’s opener , “Down On The Bowery”, which many here recognised as the first single.

Photo Cred: Liam Battersby

Damian sporting a beard and ‘tash’ tonight, plays acoustic guitar on most songs, three with electric guitar and a lovely moment when he sits at the piano when the band leave the stage, and he accompanies himself with piano and tambourine on the penultimate song of the main set pre-encore, “Grey At The Temple”.

Half a dozen songs in to the set tonight is the emotionally charged “My Little One”, about his late wife, the acclaimed actress Helen McCrory who he married in July 2007. The couple have a daughter, born in 2006 and a son born in 2007. Sadly, Helen died of cancer in April 2021 at 52-years-old.

Photo Cred: Liam Battersby

The songs from “Mission Creep” are rootsy, rock and jazz-tinged tracks that reveal Damian’s deep love of music. He has played classical guitar since he was 13, and moved on to steel string acoustic, inspired by Elvis Presley.

Damian speaking about the debut long player: “I wanted the album to give a sense of a journey to this point, from busking ‘til now. I’ve been blown away by the critical response to ‘Mission Creep’…

“All written by me and produced by my friend Giacomo Smith, with one or two favourite tracks thrown in as covers. You might think it’s a little weird that Major Winters is singing you a love song, or that Bobby Axelrod is getting all tender with some Neil Young, or that Nicholas Brody is wailing some up tempo rock ‘n’ roll at you.

“But come along, see for yourself. Because actually, none of those guys are up there, it’s just me with my incredible band of jazz ‘n’ rock musicians, and we’re in town to give you a great night out.”

Photo Cred: Liam Battersby

At his other job, he is perhaps best known for portraying U.S. Army Major Richard Winters in the utterly brilliant HBO series “Band of Brothers.” He won a Primetime Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for his portrayal of U.S. Marine Gunnery Sergeant Nicholas Brody in the Showtime series “Homeland”, and nominations for his performance as Henry VIII of England in “Wolf Hall.”

He portrays Bobby Axelrod in the Showtime series “Billions”, and appeared in “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” in 2019 as actor Steve McQueen. Damian was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to drama, and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2022 Birthday Honours for services to drama and charity.

Back to this really enjoyable gig in East Sussex, Neil Young fans were delighted with his cover of “Harvest Moon”, a big song indelibly attached to its originator, which Damian does justice to.

“She Makin’ Me Change” and “Pentonville Prison” [not on the current album], but as per the last tour, both featured and went down well with the audience – as did “Zaragoza”; a neat single last year from the debut album. [Full set list at bottom of page].

While a lot of performers may seem as miserable as sin during a gig, as though they’d rather be elsewhere, 53-year-old Damian obviously enjoys every second of his time on stage fronting this band. He has a stage presence and a sparkle too, clearly comfortable and relaxed in his own skin.

On the song “Umbrella”, he discards his guitar and throws in some rock and roll posturing, with his foot on top of the speaker cabinet at the front of the stage.

In July of 2023, he sang the national anthem live on TV around the world at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, and he got some stick on social media for his vocal, unfairly in my opinion.

No one had to stand tonight to pay homage to King Charles, but they were in the presence of international movie and TV royalty – who was well and truly caught in the act of his “side hustle” in fine, fine style. If Mr Lewis ever gets fed up with his day job, there is definitely an open door to go full time as a music star.

Set List:
Down On The Bowery
Soho Tango
She Makin’ Me Change
Hole In My Roof
Love Bomb
My Little One
Harvest Moon
Zaragoza
Never Judge a Man by His Umbrella
Makin’ Plans
Wanna Grow Old In Paris
Traffic Jam
Pentonville Prison
Grey At The Temple
She Comes

ENCORE:
Suck My Blood
A Man Named Sal
Naughty

Read the rest of the original article at Music Republic Magazine