A rainy Wednesday night in Manchester was injected with some soul as Nick Waterhouse, “the young man who plays old music”, took to the Deaf Institute’s Dance Hall for an evening of sharp R&B numbers you’d expect to find in a dusty box of 45s instead of on your Spotify Discover Weekly.
Vinyl DJ, Producer, Label Owner and self-proclaimed California man Waterhouse’s debut gig in Manchester comes at the tail end of a UK tour in support of his third EP, Never Twice (Innovative Leisure, 2016).
Jangly guitarist, Max Pope, offered a solid opening set accompanied only by bass guitar, as Waterhouse watched from the sidelines whispering to his merch man, clutching an immaculate 1962 Gibson ES-335.
Notable moments from Pope were an impressively arranged cover of Dusty Springfield’s “Spooky” and an original he explains was penned on a London-Brighton train while receiving dagger eyes from a fellow passenger which went by the name of “Mr Shady”.
Accompanied by his band, The Tarots, Waterhouse took to the stage with an opener that would undoubtedly resonate with those in the crowd eagerly awaiting pay day; a single entitled “I Had Some Money (But I Spent It)”, which had the packed floor swaying to piano grooves and classic backing vocals.
Waterhouse’s stage presence befitted a man who wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Mad Men, and his saxophonist’s on-stage whiskey gave you the impression they are an outfit built on old fashioneds.
A single from sophomore EP, Holly, came next, a toe-tapper called “Dead Room”, on which keyboardist and Waterhouse shared solo duties impressively. Throughout, Waterhouse demonstrated to all he knew his way around some beautiful bluesy guitar work, with the rest of The Tarots proving themselves to be superbly talented musicians and vocalists, with saxophonist/flautist, Jelani Brooks, an exceptional performer.
Moving into the latter parts of the set, the Deaf Institute was treated to one of the standout tracks on Never Twice. A collaboration with the Grammy-nominated Leon Bridges. “Katchi” allowed Waterhouse to throw some gravel into the vocals after explaining that the song’s title was a Louisiana term taken from Bridges’ grandmother meaning “loving touch”.
With the infectious refrain of “She gives me katchi/All night long”, and lyrics pining for “some fine alcohol and some fine drugs”, it’s probably not about the same loving touch Grandma Bridges had in mind.
There was an elegant simplicity to many of Waterhouse’s song introductions. “Sleeping Pills” was offered simply as a “drug song”, while “LA Turnaround” was described as, you guessed it, one of Waterhouse’s many “Los Angeles songs”. 2016 single, “It’s Time”, was dedicated to Manchester’s legendary Northern Soul haunt, The Twisted Wheel. A couple of covers appearing on Waterhouse’s albums were also thrown in the mix.
A catchy rendition of Barry White & The Atlantics “Tracy (All I Have Is You)” and a lounge version of the Them classic, “I Can Only Give You Everything”, blended seamlessly into a finely tuned and energetic set. For the ardent Waterhouse fans in the house, perhaps one complaint could have been that there too few numbers from his debut EP, Time’s All Gone, a project which could easily be considered a great of contemporary Soul and R&B.
Only one more night remained on Waterhouse and The Tarots’ UK Tour as they headed over the Pennines to Leeds (Belgrave Music Hall, Friday, February 24), the next opportunity to catch them after that was Athens on Saturday, February 25 for anyone preferring the Mediterranean to Yorkshire.
Perhaps the summer festival circuit awaits Waterhouse, although his tweed jacket and horned-rimmed specs are arguably better suited to subterranean drinking dens and smoky LA cantinas. Nick Waterhouse’s Never Twice EP can be purchased on iTunes, here.
Words by Dan Carabine