The wacky, the weird and the wonderful – the audience that gathered at Islington Assembly Hall proved to be one of the most wonderfully diverse we had ever seen.
Yep. the best kind of people were out tonight for an evening of fast-paced, heart gladdening and soul affirming music.
Donned in fuschia DMs and matching hair, facial piercings and tattoos galore, floral shirts and see-through dresses, geek and not-so-chic; if a queue could ever sum up the quirky, inclusive gloriousness of Islington, this was it…a convergence of souls from all walks of life, drawn together by their shared appreciation for the raw and poignant artistry on display. It stood as a testament to the universal appeal of Amigo’s music, transcending genres and defying categorization.
Almost everyone we spoke to before the gig were here to see Amigo The Devil; what became abundantly clear the more people we spoke to was that, as Kenny and Marie from Margate put it- “He has a special place in our hearts”. The fans speak of him as if he’s a special friend, someone who they’re ever so fond of. “He’s even better live – you wait!” they tell us. When I asked for an explanation, they say….
In the support spot tonight was Tejon Street Corner Thieves. Nobody we spoke to seemed have heard of Tejon Street Corner Thieves, who are Shawn D’Amario (guitar, vocals) and Connor O’Neal (banjo, vocals), with Julie Frost on the electric bass. But this was all about to change…
“We’re gonna sing some songs about whiskey,” says Connor, sitting to play and sing Whiskey– and we are all wowed by the very first number. These guys are the real deal. Soon the audience are feeling it, hooked and reeled in by the sheer musicianship and joy from the trio as they explain that this is, indeed, their first time in London. As their set explodes in a joyous riot of easy, funny, foot tappingly good tunes played so brilliantly and effortlessly, we bless the corner of Tejon Street, Downtown Colorado Springs, where Connor and Shawn met, bonded over mutual love of beer and music, and then happily busked together. The outlaw blues and trash-grass sound is wild, rowdy, deep and ultimately performative; they are just awesome!
They sing to us songs about ‘being a piece of shit’….the DTs….a travelling sandwich amongst others. Their cover of Minnie the Moocher, its rubato-infused pace combined with the melancholic meandering through major and relative minor keys, is enchanting; the crowd are wowed and everyone songs along in a suitably bawdy fashion. There’s a seamless segue into Rascal which features the three voices harmonising across several octaves (including some very very low notes!)to the happy sentiment; “I’ll be glad when you’re dead”…
Songs about not wearing a ‘Greasy Coat’ and about ‘Sex and drugs and taking drugs while having sex’, are followed by the favourite, Lay Low, and we hear, amidst the crowd singing louder and louder, the words every band surely wants to hear from a new fan; “These guys are fucking sick!”
Tejon Street Corner Thieves sing songs that are raw, earthy, emphatic and commanding- and they have a really huge sound! The folk here at the Assembly Hall relish the chance to warm up their own voices as they join in with the catchy, memorable tunes and lyrics. The musicians come in close and are effortlessly in sync; cross beats and syncopation tight and slick, gloriously crunchy and augmented chords skimming triplet bars giving us a toe tappingly, heart-thumpingly, finger-pickingly good time. If they don’t come back soon, we may have to hunt them down on our next reconnaissance mission across the pond.
Amigo the Devil, the man everyone has been waiting for, starts in the dipped darkness… a solitary beam of light highlighting the opening of this impressive, expansive, life-affirming set.
As the first chords resonated through the venue, one couldn’t help but notice the enigmatic tattoos adorning Amigo the Devil’s palms, picked up from the dim spotlight. A striking symbol—a pentagram etched upon each hand—seemed to radiate an aura of mystique and intrigue. These intricate inked markings appeared as a testament to the profound depth of his musical exploration, an emblem of the darkness he fearlessly embraces and channels into his art. He takes command of his adoring fans by saying to them, “I’m going to be really selfish tonight- and tell you what to do. You came here to have fun, I came here to tell you what to do…”
And they want to be told. The stoic precept of “Memento Mori” (ATD tells us “There’s one kind of people here tonight- people who die”) underpins the whole evening- take your moment, he is willing us.
ATD (aka Danny Kiranos) offers an introspective look on the world- a dark side to Americana and occasionally macabre messages – but the music is gloriously infectious and the storytelling spellbinding. It’s the message in “If I’m Crazy” that really hits home for us; about connection, your tribe, your people – as long as it doesn’t ‘fuck anyone up’ you should go with it, because you’ll have the best relationships. We can be perceived as insane by the world in multifarious ways, but as long as we ‘both have the same poison inside,’ love and true connection is all that matters.
Song by song, Amigo the Devil unveiled his sonic sorcery with an enchanting twist. Accompanied by a formidable full band, the atmosphere crackled with electrifying energy as they took the stage. Among the talented musicians stood a key figure—his own sister on keyboard—adding an ethereal layer to the already haunting melodies that filled the air.
With every thrash of the guitar and every haunting lyric that escaped his lips, Amigo the Devil cast a spell over the audience. The pentagrams on his palms seemed to come alive, infused with an otherworldly power, guiding his fingers and infusing his performance with an extra dose of captivating mysticism. It served as a visual reminder that this was no ordinary musical experience, but rather a journey into the heart of the unknown, a transcendence of the ordinary into a realm where light and shadow interweave.
Together, Amigo the Devil and his band wove a tapestry of sound that was as mesmerizing as it was unsettling. The full arrangement expanded the sonic landscape, enhancing the brooding intensity of his songs. Yet, even amidst this rich sonic tapestry, Amigo’s distinct voice and magnetic stage presence remained the focal point, drawing the audience into his world of melancholic beauty and haunting tales.
ATD has long been hailed an exceptional live performer, and tonight was no deviation. His passion and emotion-fuelled voice, singing these dark, funny, disturbing yet oddly comforting stories with such sincerity and fervour leaves us in no doubt of his place centre stage of a boundary-pushing, fabulous rollercoaster blend of Americana, folk and country music.
AMIGO THE DEVIL played Islington Assembly Hall, London – 22 06 2023
Support from TEJON STREET CORNER THIEVES