Gig review: Simone Felice at Howard Assembly Room, Leeds

Simone Felice started his career on the New York slam poetry scene. Despite releasing a series of well-received Americana albums since 2006, initially as a founding member of The Felice Brothers and latterly as a solo artist, it seems to remain his first love.

Simone Felice
Simone Felice

Perched on a bar stool with an electric guitar resting awkwardly on his knees he thanks the audience for “opening your hearts and ears to my poetry’ and, reaching over for a vinyl copy of latest album The Projector, he reads the lyrics from the sleeve to ‘They’d Hang Upon My Every Word’.

Spoken aloud its internal rhythm has the energy of the Beat poets. Yet most of his lyrics would work as stand-alone poems, with his unfussy guitar being arranged around the words rather than vice versa. These are tracks that imbue everyday situations with brutal, gothic horror and even when he sings “you’re not alone” on ‘The Projector’ he makes it heavy with torment.

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The intensity of the lyrics initially seems to reflect his emotional constitution. He silently re-positions his capo, removes his black felt hat, and stares intently at his guitar strings as if weighing up what to play next. But as the set progresses he relaxes enough to reveal a dry humour and lazy laugh.

Instructing the audience to sing along in the key of G on ‘Bye Bye Palenville’ he jokes that people shouldn’t worry about singing in tune, just from the heart, “which is what The Felice Brothers always did”.

His own voice is rich, the grittier range having something of Bruce Springsteen, but it’s certainly true that his material is elevated through the emotion he manages to convey.