Monday, October 25, 2021

Ian Fisher - Live 2021.10.22 Prachtwerk, Berlin, Germany

Two and a half years ago I saw Ian play at the same venue on his last major tour, not counting the Tour of Tours show at Lido, one of the last shows I saw before the pandemic. Like everyone, Ian hasn’t been able to tour since then, despite that he released an excellent new album, American Standards, earlier this year. (Well, it was out last year for crowdfunding supporters, which is why I included it in my 2020 in Review post.) This tour was just four acoustic shows accompanied by his longtime collaborator Ryan Thomas Carpenter on banjo, keyboard, and backing vocals. This was my first indoor show since February 2020 and I’ve still been pretty anxious about attending events like this, but I’m vaccinated and I couldn’t resist the appeal. It helps that Prachtwerk is a really cozy venue, and they seem to know how to handle the sound such that it’s full and clear but not so loud that I need earplugs.

The show itself was excellent. Ian and Ryan played for almost two hours, including two thirds of American Standards, several of their older songs, a couple much older covers, and a whole six new songs! I loved the variety; that’s exactly the way to my heart. A particular highlight was “Manmade Mountains” from Vienna You White Moon (2009), which was given a much fuller arrangement with Ryan’s keyboard and harmonies. This was also the first time I can recall seeing Ryan play banjo, which he wielded deftly on some of the new songs and the cover of the Missouri state song. Although I quite enjoy American Standards, especially the title track and “Be Thankful”, the new songs were particularly special. It felt like we were getting an early taste of the next album, and the songs were already getting honed and arranged. “A Mother’s Love” was uncharacteristically sweet, but true as ever. “If I Show I Do” featured some impressive hambone percussion from Ryan while he simultaneously played the keyboard. “Achilles Heel” and “I’m Burning” reached impressive emotional and vocal heights, with the latter drawing in some gospel vibes in the chorus.

After coming back for the encore with another introspective new song, Ian and Ryan threw down and got the house rocking with the Hank Williams classic “Honky Tonk Blues”, complete with barreling solos from Ryan’s keyboard. “Ghosts of the Ryman” was an alternate opportunity for paying tribute to forebears, perhaps ironically featuring a lyric lightly mocking Southern-rock versions of Hank Williams songs. Much to my surprise, they even came back for a second encore. They asked for requests, and unsurprisingly “Candles for Elvis” won out. Ian claimed he barely remembered how it went, and he asked if Ryan could do it on the keyboard. Of course they went for it anyway, and with only a couple tiny flubs, it came off as the riveting, socio-politically emotional number it always does. It truly makes for a great closer.

Here’s the setlist:
01. [new song]
02. American Standards
02. Three Chords & the Truth
03. Melody in Nashville
05. Be Thankful
06. Manmade Mountains
07. If I Show I Do
08. Nero
09. Regret
10. Comin’ Down
11. A Mother’s Love
12. Missouri Waltz [cover of the Missouri state song]
13. Maybe a Little More
14. Achilles Heel
15. One Foot
16. I’m Burning

17. Only One Way Out & No Way Back
18. Honky Tonk Blues [Hank Williams cover]
19. Ghosts of the Ryman

Second Encore:
20. Candles for Elvis

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