Categories Album Mission Creep Music Review UK Tour 2024

LIVE REVIEW: Damian Lewis at the Lighthouse, Poole

The Real Thing

by Cliff Moore | Bournemouth Daily Echo | March 26, 2024

Photo Cred: msmeldoe

ALTHOUGH Damian Lewis will be most familiar for his acting roles, he does have a burgeoning musical career which is slowly emerging into the light.

Here was the star of Band of Brothers, Wolf Hall, Homeland and Billions standing in front of a mic, acoustic guitar in hand (sometimes electric) and backed by a band of young but seasoned professionals.

Lewis the singer, so the story goes, harks back to a post-Eton, pre-stardom time when he busked around Europe. He carried on playing here and there, but acting took over.

Then came a period when he was able to spend more time strumming than learning lines – the result being the well-received debut album Mission Creep which came out on Decca last year and the advent of a few gigs.

I even had one track, the self-composed “Down On The Bowery” on my 2024 Spotify playlist. The collection was undoubtedly influenced by the tragically early death of his wife, the Peaky Blinders star Helen McCrory in 2021.

We shall try to overlook his, er, alternative version of the National Anthem in the style of Elvis Presley on the Silverstone track at the British Grand Prix last July and file it away as somewhat of an aberration. Thankfully, there was no sign of it tonight.

So, it was with anticipation and no little trepidation that we awaited the posh, (his grandfather was Lord Mayor of London) 53-year-old flame-haired performer to the Lighthouse Theatre stage.

We needn’t have worried.

Lewis appeared moments after the band shuffled on, slight, bearded, dressed in a striped, black shirt, black chinos and white loafers (no socks), with wide legged stance.

The bluesy rocker “She Makin’ Me Change” heralded a 19-song set, featuring 10 tracks from Mission Creep, eight new songs and a beautiful cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon,” which left him visibly emotional.

His voice is more powerful than maybe expected, his tone adapting well to a variety of folky, bluesy, rocky jazzy mash-ups, many of which started quietly and rapidly built to a rocking out crescendo, There were little stories introducing the songs – about busking in Spain for Zaragoza, performing as a doctor in a vampire film for “Suck My Blood” and crashing off his motorbike through a minicab windscreen in north London for the epic “Pentonville Prison.”

An entertaining anecdote about notorious spy Kim Philby and Nicholas Elliott meeting in Berlin brought forth “Never Judge A Man By His Umbrella,” which he sang almost leaning into the audience, one foot on the monitor, guitar on his back.

Of course, much of Lewis’s material is achingly personal, with a number of songs clearly dedicated to his late wife, such as the ghostly “She Comes” and the bluesy “My Little One.”

In an entertaining performance there was even some whistling, on “Soho Tango, and a live premiere of understated new song “Question Mark.” Lewis also seemed to be channelling the great Jackie L”even on his most melodic song “Traffic Jam” and the Feelgoods’ Lee Brilleaux on “Makin’ Plans.”

Lewis has his own band of brothers (and one sister) in the shape of members of London-based jazz combo Kansas Smitty’s House Band, namely Dave Archer on guitar, Joe Webb, piano and Will Cleasby, drums, along with the bass of Phil Donnelly and backing vocals and guitar from Kitty Liv.

They gel very nicely, clearly at ease with the material. Lewis encored, not with covers, but three new songs, including the great rocker “A Man Named Sal.”

The acid test is were we watching an actor playing at being a singer or was this the real thing? After a couple of songs you sort of, but not quite, forget who he is and just enjoy the music – which it how it should be. The real thing, yes.

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