Kiefer Sutherland @ O2 Ritz, Manchester

What a supreme night of entertainment. It’s been a good few years since I’ve seen the man himself, Kiefer Sutherland, live in concert. So to have the opportunity again was terrific. The O2 Ritz is one of those venues where any performer could grace its stage and sound excellent. The sound carries well and envelopes the crowd. It sounds great regardless of where you choose to stand. The anticipation felt among the audience was palpable. Speaking to people in the crowd and the queue you got that genuine feeling of excitement and sheer glee. Sutherland’s shows usually have a ravenous fanbase turn up in numbers, meaning that the crowd was already getting packed in for the support acts. This is a great thing as the support artists get their chance to perform in front of as many people as possible. I was happy I turned up early for this one. Both acts delivered well-done performances that warmed up the crowd nicely for the big shebang of the main attraction.

Opening the proceedings were the soulful melodies of blues act Sari Schorr. Traveling with guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick, the two put on an absolute clinic. Schorr sang to the rafters in this acoustic set that allowed her vocals to breathe and shine. Sari has always had that star quality. You can feel the rest of the world fading away as you can get lost in the vocal performance. Though a relatively short set, both musicians made the most of the time given. Songs like “Back To LA” and “Where Have You Been My Friend” were awesome to hear in this stript-back setting. Kirkpatrick kept that persistent energy on the guitar. He carried enough technique and style to capture the tone all while making sure Sari had enough musical support to just nail the melodies. Closing out the set with a cover of “Down, Down” by Status Quo which you could tell was a crowd-pleaser. Sari added her usual vocal flair to the tune. The Manchester crowd loved it and you could hear the people singing along, with joy in their voices. I’ve been a fan of Sari for some time and the way she plays with music. Just the way she delivers her vocal performance, you can just tell that she loves to sing. A brief but technically proficient set that was more than enough to whet the appetite for what was to come.

After a fairly brief turnaround, it was time for the Americana stylings of Fine Lines. As someone who grew up with artists like Alabama and The Chicks (formally the Dixie Chicks), this band immediately resonated with me. The band was a joy to watch perform. Their music just had this natural bounce, it definitely moved me. It was music that could fill you up with joy. Their style is more of that polished clean country music. Everything felt like it was in check with a well-balanced tone and sound. Each instrument played its part to perfection with gorgeous vocal harmonies on the top of the production. I loved how the two vocal parts played off of one another, becoming something greater than the sum of its parts. The Cheshire-based band sounded like they’d walked right off of the stage of Nashville. Their set was one that just kept on climbing. All of the elements were ones that just resonated with my musical palette. Then you get the violin sections to their songs and I think that just took it right over the top. It was just such a joyous affair and the kind of music that took me back to being a little boy bouncing to country music while playing on my Dad’s computer. This set was a pleasure to watch and a more than welcome surprise to the evening. Beautiful vocals, thumping and heart-beating music with a joyful tone throughout. It sure was the basis of that good ol’ country performance.

The crowd was packed in and the lights dimmed for the man himself to step on stage. Kiefer Sutherland made his entrance and the place just erupted. The set was a suitable mix of songs from his three albums Down In A Hole, Reckless & Me and Bloor Street, and also padded out with some covers thrown in there. Kiefer is just a real rock star. He just knows how to put that added sparkle in his stage presentation. The way he moves and plays around with his backing band is wonderful to watch and the staging and lighting gave the show that added dynamic feel. I really liked the opening to the set, songs like “Ole’ Lonely Life”, “Chasing The Rain” and “Reckless & Me” getting particularly loud ovations in response. Kiefer and his band really brought the energy at the midpoint of the set, once Kiefer switched from his electric guitar to the acoustic one. I think this is where the set really picked up, at least for me.

I really loved the cover of Patty Loveless’ “Blame It On Your Heart”. Loveless was one of the country music stars that made beautifully personal songs and I feel like Kiefer definitely added his own unique spin on the tune, turning it into a Dwight Yoakam-esk rock ‘n’ roll song. I thought it was pretty well done. Kiefer would also go on to cover a couple of Tom Petty songs throughout the evening, as if it wasn’t clear that’s who Kiefer is emulating a lot of the time. By the way, that’s not a bad thing, Tom Petty is amazing and I think most rock artists emulate him to a degree. Kiefer was incredibly charming and down to earth. Telling stories of his youth and life to now, adding context to the songs that he performed. Especially for “Bloor Street”, where Sutherland opens up to the crowd about his life growing up in Canada, (Bloor Street being the main road through Toronto). The highlight of the middle part of the set was the live debut of “Down The Line”, the album closer of Bloor Street. It’s a great song and the whole band performed it beautifully.

Heading towards the end of the set. Big numbers like “So Full of Love”, “ This is How it’s Done” and “Down in a Hole” were played and rounding off the set with a massive ovation from the Manchester crowd. Obviously, they came back on for an encore. Even though it’s a Tuesday night in the city, Sutherland brought that Friday night feeling with the song “Friday Night”, drinking with the crowd and closing out the night with “Agave”.

A super-special night with some absolutely amazing songs performed in a big way. The live production was quality with all of the instrumentation and vocals coming through crystal clear. The energy in the room from a packed out venue made this feel like a night to remember. It’s clear that Manchester loves Kiefer Sutherland and that love was very much given back to the crowd. A great mix of all the songs from his music career thus far with some well-chosen cover songs. This was a great evening and I would be more than happy to come back and see all of these acts again.

Words by Mick Birchall

Photos by Philip Goddard


Mick Birchall

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