Joe Pernice: London Borderline

Sometime Pernice Brother indulges in some duetting...

Stephen Malkmus at the Garage? No thanks. PJ Harvey at Shepherd’s Bush Empire? No again. The best ticket in town tonight is for Joe and John, particularly for Joe, for whom recognition as one of the best American songwriters of the past decade is overdue.

No disrespect to Athens, Georgia’s John Crooke, whose ragged country is very affecting, but he’s overshadowed by his partner tonight. The theme of the night is one developed on their European tour a year ago, on which the two men played a few songs together, evolving to playing whole sets of both of their songs together. So it’s one song by Crooke, then one by Pernice, played and sung by the pair of them.

What might seem an odd approach by two very strong songwriters in fact works. There’s no overt chumminess marring the pairing; rather each song is delivered with the poignancy, rustic charm and bleeding heartbreak it merits. A couple of months ago Pernice played this venue with a full band and while the treatment was rich and lush, tonight’s pared down acoustic version is no less appealing.

In a couple of months’ time, Joe Pernice ought to be playing at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire or the Garage. Unjustly, it looks like both Pernice and Jolene’s Crooke are going to remain cult figures, but keep a space for the pair of them in the rock’n’roll hall of fame all the same.

Ben Clancy