Live review: Jonathan Jackson + Enation, Nashville (22 May ’15)

Jonathan Jackson
Jonathan Jackson

Jonathan Jackson (left) and Daniel Sweatt on bass guitar

An adoring Nashville crowd provided the perfect opportunity for the actor and his band to show what they’re made of

here is a palpable sense of excitement at the legendary Nashville venue 3rd And Lindsley tonight as the audience awaits the entrance of bona fide television star Jonathan Jackson – ABC’s Nashville’s very own bad boy turned good Avery Barkley. Tonight marks the first night of Jackson’s US tour with his band Enation and it will be interesting to see whether the gathered throng will accept him on his own merit.

Firstly though Ruston Kelly, a singer songwriter with fast fingers and warm vocals, charms the crowd with his homespun tales of misadventure. Whether alone with his guitar or backed by a full band, his set blends country and rock filled with sharp lyrical observations.

Then it’s the turn of the main event. Jackson starts things off alone on the keys with the poignant Young Worlds Riot before his bandmates join him to raise the noise on Ascending. The three-piece quickly demonstrate their impressive musicianship. Richard Lee Jackson on drums and Daniel Sweatt on bass combine to create a rhythm section full of groove and thunder over which Jonathan’s swirling guitar snakes around. With some of the dynamic power of Muse, they pack a sonic punch.

Many of the night’s highlights come from the band’s most recent album Radio Cinematic. Singles Cinematic and the anthemic Everything Is Possible are stadium-sized numbers that would appeal to fans of The Foo Fighters, U2 and Use Somebody era Kings Of Leon. A Far Away Reality and The Hands Of Your Drug see Jackson solo with the keyboard again and he fills every note with deep emotion and sincerity. His vocals range from seductive and breathy to anguished and wailing.

As if to plant an Enation flag in their musical ground, the set is smattered with a selection of well-chosen covers by U2, Radiohead, Pearl Jam and R.E.M. The band’s vortex of sound helps them blend seamlessly into the set. There is also a nod to the Nashville fans in the crowd; beefed up versions of show favourites The Morning Of The Rain and Keep Asking Why send wild cheers through the room.

The charismatic Jackson is an electric frontman, a brooding rock ‘n’ roll elf with cheekbones to die for. His passion and spirituality is evident from the start and, together with his two bandmates, he has formed a musical tour de force. The people may have turned up to see a television star, but they stayed to hear an extremely talented musician and his band blow the roof off.

Words & photos: Duncan Haskell

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