John Prine performing his The Tree Of Forgiveness Tour at The Town Hall Birmingham on Friday 3rd August 2018.

Review by Kevin Cooper

Singing and song writing legend John Prine has been through some trials and tribulations since the last time that he came to the UK, but he has come through them all. Touring with his latest studio album, The Tree Of Forgiveness, the 71 year old Illinois native last night graced the Town Hall Birmingham with a funny yet moving performance.

Having survived two bouts of cancer with the scars visible on his neck, he still growled his words softly, his voice ragged but not rough as he dipped into his 1971 debut album for the well loved classic Six O’Clock News, before showcasing a sprightly new song Knockin’ On Your Screen Door which went down a treat.

Prine has gravitas and gravel in equal measures and has the kind of voice and presence which invites rather than commands attention with the nuanced phrasing of a seasoned storyteller, none more so evident than with Bruised Orange (Chain Of Sorrow) and Ain’t Hurtin’ Nobody.

And although he held the audience rapt and amused with his clever rhyming couplets on the likes of the very pretty Summer’s End and Hello In There, he was ably assisted by the warm sensitive and dextrous guitar playing of Jason Wilber, whose mellifluous solos drew admiring applause throughout with Dave Jacques on upright and electric bass.

Angel From Montgomery, a song made ubiquitous by Bonnie Raitt, saw Fats Kaplin’s fiddle and Wilber’s guitar calling back and forth to one another as they swirled around Prine’s lovely lyrics. Whilst some of his songs have become better with age, he dipped into the more humorous side of his personality for the wry Egg & Daughter Nite, Lincoln Nebraska 1967 (Crazy Bone), before he dedicated the heartfelt Boundless Love to his wife Fiona.

With the band leaving the stage to Prine he was given a window to reach back for a couple more favourites from his past with the likes of Please Don’t Bury Me, Donald And Lydia, Souvenirs and That’s The Way That The World Goes ‘Round.

His terrific band which also included drummer Kenneth Blevins returned for the final three songs of the main set, with Sam Stone, which was written in the throes of the Vietnam conflict and could so easily be written about today’s veterans returning home from the Middle East. God Only Knows was followed by set closer Lake Marie which received the giddiest response from this audience.

They all returned for the raucous and hilarious last song on the new album, When I Get To Heaven, before finishing with his classic Paradise, another gem from his 1971 debut.

As Prine soaked up the applause from an audience who were immediately on their feet in appreciation, he looked like a man who was content with his lot, knowing just how much his artistry is loved by all.