@Newcastle The Cluny 2, September 12 2015

Woe betide the unfortunate individual charged with adding Warner E Hodges’ shows to setlist.fm. There’s no easy copy and past job here, no comfort zone in which to nestle during the predictable mid-set numbers and no chance of guessing which songs will make the cut – until the moment the first chord is struck.  “There were three songs there I’d never ever played live,” revealed Hodges’ right hand man and former Bonafide favorite Mikael Fassberg immediately after a two-hour rock n roll rollercoaster ride. “Of course I knew them and I’d heard them a million times before. But until the moment Warner turned to me and said we were going to play Keep Your Hands To Yourself I had absolutely no idea that was in his head and I’d never played that song in public!”

For Fassberg and Hodges’ long-suffering rhythm section, a typically unpredictable gig was a potentially stressful trip into the unknown. The main man admitted he was in a mischievous mood and the Nashville rocker appeared on a mission to make life as difficult as possible for his occasionally bemused band mates. But there was as much amusement as bemusement with Hodges frequently paying tribute to his largely unflustered hired hands.

To summarise there were snapshots of Jason and The Scorchers, Bonafide, Georgia Satellites, The Wildhearts, Creedance Clearwater Revival, solo material and more. Hodges was keen to play Fassberg’s debut single Parade – allowing the Swede to take the vocal lead – and jumped into the crowd to wrap things up with John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads. At times it was like watching a human jukebox permanently set to free play.

Exhausting as it was for the committed Cluny crowd, Hodges must have been dead on his feet by the time he trooped to the merch stand to diligently shift his own gear. Casually chatting with familiar faces and a few new friends, it was clear he meant every word when, earlier in the evening, he admitted he’d be happy playing 350 shows a year.

The charm of this show – and fans can expect more of the same when Hodges returns to these shores with Dan Baird later this year – is that the singalong classics are interspersed with cracking tales and brilliant banter. It doesn’t take much to interact with your public but Hodges puts all of those too-cool-for-school shoe gazers to shame.

As comfortable striking up a mid-set conversation as he is letting rip on ode to AC/DC Hell To Pay, this is entertainment at its most endearing.

So there was no set list stuck to the floor. So what. No plan in place. No problem. Warner E Hodges is all about living in the moment and living for now – just ask the Mormons he chased down his drive wearing nothing but a pair of pants. Simon Rushworth

Exclusive image courtesy of Gordon Armstrong