Once upon a time there was a prince called John and a princess called Joy and together as The Civil Wars they lived happily ever after, producing music which captured audiences hearts. Thats how the story was supposed to end right? But this is a modern tale and the Prince and Princess went their separate ways and then there was silence.
I was at the last ever concert given by The Civil Wars at the Roundhouse London in 2012, it was a magical evening, the duo were at the top of their musical game and then they unexpectedly separated. Tentatively after many years John Paul White came back onto the musical scene in 2016 with his album ‘Belulah’ and travelled to these shores at Bush Hall, London to promote these songs and more importantly his return to music.
Last night at Islington Assembley Hall (5th September 2019) John Paul began his latest tour across Europe to promote his album ‘The Hurting Kind’. A very emotionally raw, visceral americana collection of songs which departs from the more folk/country music that he is known for. John Paul brings a stronger sense of his self into these songs building from personal family history and tragedies.
John Paul opened the night with ‘Wish I Could Write You A Song’ a haunting melody of love and loss. Continuing with ‘My Dreams Have All Come Home’, and ‘The Long Way Home’ These songs play your heartstrings like an orchestra and rather than make you melancholy they are love songs to the human spirit and it’s capacity to carry on through emotional and physical hardship.
One of the most powerful songs sung by John Paul that night for me was ‘James’ inspired by the country icon Glen Campbell and finding out he had Alzheimers and struggling with memory loss. To make that connection more personal in the lyrics John Paul changed the name of the protagonist to that of his father.
Then at the end of his set John Paul said he was going to perform a song he hadn’t played in front of an audience in seven years. That song was ‘Barton Hollow’. The crowd roared with appreciation and then fell silent to hear one half of ‘The Civil Wars’ perform one of their songs again. It was everything that you could hope for the soaring vocals, the guitar strings holding the melody and that connection that brought back memories of another time and place.
The encore consisted of just John Paul on stage singing ‘Once And Future Queen’ and ending with ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ a fitting ending to a night of musical magic. After rapturous applause the evening was at and end but one thing remained for me to do and that was to meet the man himself John Paul White.
Earlier on in the evening waiting in line to enter the venue John Paul came and shook everyone’s hand who was there. When he came to me he said “You can’t pick me up again!” I replied ‘Are you sure?’, “Maybe” came back the answer said with a glint in his eye. When John Paul sees me after the concert he says “You’re the only one who got to do that no one else will!”