I have to admit, I’d never heard of Stu Larsen before Saturday (March 15, 2014). Turns out I’ve been missing out on a very talented and interesting acoustic performer.
Date: March 15, 2014
Venue: Bodega, Nottingham
Stu Larsen is not your average singer-songwriter. Average singer-songwriter’s don’t up sticks and leave their quaint Queensland, Australia, home and embark upon a journey with no real intention, plan or destination.
But that’s what Stu Larsen did 7 years ago, and he’s been wandering, shifting and living with friends with no fixed abode ever since, forever searching for new ideas and kinships along the way.
His latest sojourn has led him to the UK, and the Bodega. With the look of a new-age vagabond about him – long blonde and unkept hair tumbling from an old peaked hat; bristly whiskers and clothes (including cliched plaid shirt) that you know have gathered a fair amount of stains – he shuffles on stage in front of a decent-sized crowd.
With just his acoustic guitar and harmonica for company, he starts with a track taken from his new EP, Seaforth Mackenzie, a rustic folk song draped in reverb, entrenched in a silent appreciation & glowing with a mesmeric aura.
From here it’s clear that we’re about to be shown how life on the road has formed memories and constructed them into deeply personal and poetic folk songs. But he’s also eager to tell tales of his life on the road. He’s without touring partners and best friends, including Mike Rosenberg, better known as Passenger, whom he travelled with for a fairly solid 3 years through Australia, North America, the UK and Europe, and his Japanese harmonica player, Natsuki Kurai. Both are mentioned numerous times throughout the gig, as he imparts fond memories of them both.
Although he’s been described as a troubadour and a vagabond, he’s not averse to modern technology. Indeed his Facebook page seems to be the platform to visit if you want to place your request. This is how an unexpected cover of Coldplay’s Fix You materializes. “I stopped playing this”, he admits, but ever one to please his fans, he turns the song from an over-used soundtrack for charity events into an emotive, soulful lament.
San Francisco sees him openly pour out his heart in a wistful missive of wrong decisions and lost loves. “You look at me like a vagabond”, he sings, as his vulnerability is aired.
But it’s not all seriousness and plaintive lamentation. His tales of how his looks cause gender confusion are witty and charming, from the young boy who asked his father what was the matter with that lady upon seeing his beard and long hair, to the guys in a coffee shop who were checking out his derriere through some very tight jeans only to discover their error when Stu turned around to see who they were talking about!
Elsewhere King Street is like Paul Simon pouring his heart out about his father’s diseased soul via a heart-achingly saddened song, his “delayed retaliation break-up song” comes in the form of Pocket Full Of Coins and is brimming with pathos & hurt, while This Train is about a long journey between Adelaide to Darwin, augmented by an echoic harmonica reflecting the dusty trek and simulating the engine’s moans and groans.
A talented, engaging storyteller, Stu Larsen had the Bodega totally under his spell for the hour he graced the stage. Home is where the heart is, so says the old adage. Where his heart takes him next, nobody knows but him.