“How are those maggots? Maggots, Michael. You’re eating maggots how do they taste?”
This quote from the 1987 film Lost Boys belongs to vampire bully David, who is playing Chinese food mind games with the protagonist. David is played by Kiefer Sutherland, who just last week played a country music showcase during AmericanaFest at City Winery in Nashville.
Sutherland has come a long way since, having amassed a most celebrated movie and TV career, but last Thursday night he took his talents to the stage with his two guitarists, and serenaded a thirsty crowd with original songs.
As anticipated, the place was packed. I stood in the far back by the entrance next to a little side table to observe the dark, jazz-lounge-like environment.
Tables were filled with glass capped water bottles, wine glasses, savory delights, and flickering candlelight, and the stage was set for Kiefer and co. With a red shaded lamp just off-center, several acoustic guitars lay in wait for the hands of Sutherland and his compadres.
With the intimate mood set, a fellow walked on stage and propped up a lap steel guitar. He started playing some spooky western noir riffs for a minute or two before Sutherland and the other gentleman walked on stage to mass applause. With a raised hand to acknowledge the crowd, he sat down, picked up his acoustic, and started to strum. His cohort picked up a classic silver resonator guitar, and they started into a groove with Sutherland yelling out a “woo!” off to the side of the mic, which he frequently did.
“Ready to go / For tonight’s rodeo,” Sutherland sang in the chorus of this heartier, meatier country western tune that was reminiscent of 90s country. The song had a heavier anthemic vibe despite the three stringed instruments, but it was easy to envision heavy drums and bass propping it up. It flirted with a big bold sound, but never fully peaked it seemed.
Sutherland said it’d been a year and seven months since he’d played in front of an audience, and what better time and place to break the streak than AmericanaFest in Nashville.
Sutherland, as one can imagine, was incredibly well-spoken and jovial between songs, and at one point discussed his first “love song.”
“I was in the studio with my friends, and we were listening back to the song I was recording, and they were teasing me like, ‘Who’s the song about man? Who’s the girl? Come on, tell us!’ I just shook my head and didn’t tell them. Then they went out and had a smoke or a drink or whatever, and my 13-year-old daughter says to me, ‘Dad I know what that song is about. It’s not about a woman, it’s about that stupid bar you always go to.’ It was then that I found out my 13-year-old daughter was smarter than my friends,” he said with the audience letting out a chuckle. He then went on to give a shout out to the Los Angeles bar, and then kicked into “Can’t Stay Away.”
He proceeded to play through a number of contemporary country songs, often about being alone, not being alone, the rain, mistakes, and the like. The usual heartbroken cowboy stuff more or less, which for me is usually most welcome. But had he not been who he is, it’s anybody’s guess how much of an impact the music would have. But the guy is undoubtedly inspired one way or another.
He spoke of his deep admiration for the legends like Cash, Jennings, Nelson, Kristofferson, and so on, and it was evident in listening to his music. It definitely helped that he had his flanked bandmates assist in lifting the songs to new heights.
Sutherland discussed being born in London, raised in Toronto, and moving to California as a kid only to go back to Canada. He mentioned the back and forth, but he claims Toronto as his home. This was the setup for the title track of his upcoming album, Bloor Street, which is set to release in January, while the single drops tomorrow, October 1st.
It was undoubtedly entertaining to watch the former 24 and Lost Boys star share his newfound passion, and he had a fluid contemporary country sound to him, but I couldn’t help but wonder how other country artists might feel about it.