I’m not entirely sure the best way to describe Midland? Wikipedia uses the term Neotraditional (which I really have no idea what that means) whilst on first glance they may appear like they are extras from The Dukes of Hazzard or (for any fans of Anchorman) members of the Brian Fantana fan club! The most simple way to go from here is it just a dirty old school, edgy sound with a very unique style in terms of sound and image.
I did not get to see Mark Wystrach, Jess Carson and Cam Duddy perform either at Omeara or during Country 2 Country when they came over back in March. Also I must admit I hadn’t really listened to their debut album On the Rocks a great deal so I didn’t really know what to expect.
I had heard a lot of people throw the words “retro” or “vintage” around when talking about them which is well reflected in their set list. In their 17 song set on Thursday 6th December at Shepherds Bush Empire they performed 7 covers with Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game which was originally released in 1989 being the most recent and this song was the final track of a 4 song encore.
In modern times an encore often is merely a break in the set which considering they hadn’t performed their biggest hit which everyone in the crowd came to hear “Drinkin’ Problem” during the main set a reappearance was inevitable. However this was an instance where the crowd really wanted more and was well deserved. The intensity that these guys have on stage is really refreshing to see and the fact of having their own unique style reflects how they are not following the crowd so allows them to be the sort of band people traditionally would expect to walk into a bar, have a few drinks and not want to leave again.
Even if like me you did not really know too much about them musically, they are the sort of band that regardless of what they are playing are guaranteed to deliver a wild and memorable evening based on the atmosphere and how well these guys work the crowd. Their live shows really are an experience that you would want to encounter again and again.
I mentioned earlier that their set did include a lot of covers, I really liked the mix of songs: 7 songs from their debut album, a brand new song “21st Century Honky Tonk American Band”, a pair of songs not from On the Rocks but fans had heard before and 20 years’ worth of classic old school country, rock and everything in between. I am a huge Springsteen fan so I really appreciated their performance of Tougher Than the Rest from his 1987 Tunnel of Love record which for me was a personal highlight. Over interpretations included The Rolling Stones 1978 classic number 1 hit Miss You and a song I never get tired of hearing being brought to an audience that (worryingly) many may not have heard before being The Weight and their version featuring their tour opener Desure.
All in all this was a great evening and a fun extension to my Birthday the day before. These guys are one of the slickest live bands I have seen who have come over from Nashville and brought one of the most fun nights of the year. I still don’t really know the best way to describe Midland but all I know is that I quite like it.
(SETLIST: Check Cashin’ Country, Burn Out, Electric Rodeo, Gator Boys, 21st Century Honky Tonk American Band, Fourteen Gears, Out of Sight, Tougher Than the Rest, Miss You, East Bound and Down, Midnight Rider, Altitude Adjustment, Make a Little, Drinkin’ Problem, I Can Get Off On You, The Weight, Wicked Game.)