It’s easy to write off Kiefer Sutherland’s music career as a vanity project, but after seeing him live I can assure you it is not. I actually figured that out when I saw that his debut album was produced by Jude Cole, a singer/songwriter who’s been making music for over 30 years. Together they turned Sutherland’s collection of songs he’s been writing for as long as he’s been acting into a record that shows us a different side of the man most know as tough guy Jack Bauer.
As a fan of his film and tv work since I was a kid watching Stand By Me, I would’ve paid to see the show even if I thought it was going to be bad. But I had a good feeling after hearing Down In A Hole a couple of times. Even though he’s been branded as a country singer (by the media and probably in his own words) there’s a lot more going on than some tear-in-my-beer campfire ballads. In the song “Going Home” you get influences that span from classic rock to Motown. If you heard it without knowing the band, you’d never guess it was a “country” thing.
The live show was a lot of fun. Like most smart musicians, Sutherland understands that if you want your music to sound good, you need to surround yourself with talented musicians. His guitarists, Michael Gurley and Austin Vallejo, are both fantastic. They can play everything from the sickest blues riffs to a quiet lullaby and make it look easy. The backline of Jess Calcaterra on drums and Joseph DeLeo on bass kept things moving on beat for the full 80 minutes they were on stage.
Kiefer gave the audience some insight into his personal life, telling stories from his childhood as well as his more recent life situation. My favorite was about living with his father for a few months after his parents split up when he and his sister were four years old. His dad, Donald, after appearing in Kelly’s Heroes, had a red 1956 Ferrari two-seater in which he drove them to nursery school. Kiefer said that even as a four year old even he knew that it was a “fucking cool” car.
He also talked about hanging out with Merle Haggard, losing the love of his life, and an early heartbreak that led to the first song he ever wrote.
Down In A Hole is only 11 songs long, so to fill up the show they played some interesting covers. The first was Haggard’s “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down,” which is very much a country song. Then they shifted gears quite a bit. Introducing another cover Kiefer said that Tom Petty’s “never written a bad lyric.” That could be debated, but the version of “Honeybee” that they played was a lot of fun.
Talking about growing up in Toronto, Sutherland mentioned two things you HAD to listen to or you weren’t cool. One was Rush, which drew some applause, but he demured. “If I tried to hit one of those notes I’d be dead here on the floor,” he said. The other was Gordon Lightfoot. So they covered “Sundown” from the 1974 album of the same name. And the last cover of the encore was “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan.
Going in I thought it would be pretty good, but walking out I was really impressed by how much of himself Sutherland has put into his new endeavor. I expected it to be a little more laid back and passive, but it was a pretty exciting show. I would recommend to anyone who was thinking about it but not quite sure, or really anyone who likes having a good time and listening to good music.
The current leg of the tour is winding down in a couple days, but I’m sure they’ll be back on the road again soon. Check out his website for more info.