Athough I have been living in Belgium for almost 7 years, I keep discovering things as if I were a brand new comer. And one the best new things that happened to me this year was discovering Admiral Freebee. Strangely enough, it didn’t come to me through filière belge, I heard about his concerts in Ancienne Belgique via a group for expats, from a Dutch member. Since then, my findings on this musician were a series of “wows” and “read this” and “listen to that”.
On his real name Tom Van Laere, Admiral Freebee comes from Antwerp and he has been a on and off presence on the Belgian scene since 2000, with albums recorded both here and in the Unites States, working with respectable musicians and producers. And considering the high quality of his work, I guess everybody in Belgium knows him. Now I do too.
Two concerts for Admiral Freebee it Ancienne Belgique this March: one sold out and an extra show almost full house, promoting a new album and a respectable come back after 4 years of recording silence.
Six other musicians on the stage to keep up with his admirable energy: Tim Coenen (guitar), Senne Guns (keyboards), Martin Moesen (drums) and Jasper Hautekiet (bass). Plus the saxophonist Marc De Maes and the trumpeter Yves Fernandez, to add a big band flavor to this particular context.
The setlist covered songs from all albums. Starting off with “Blues from a hypochondriac (always hoping for the worse)” he continued building an ambiance of good old rock’n’roll in its highly pure definition: passing through rock’n’roll, blues, funky rhythms and slow acoustics songs. The latest released album “The Great Scam” (“my easy fifth” as he calls it) was introduced with a selection of new track which were easily recognizable as the style is softer and more melancholic. Listening to the single of his new album in its radio version may discourage the new listeners. But the live version of “Nothing Else to do” was vibrant and gained lots of charm from the sounds of trumpet and saxophone. “Get out of town” was probably the peak of the show, although there were other songs which really rocked out.
The entire evening was a variety of musical styles, from funky rhythms to rock’n roll to acoustics moments but nevertheless without a single slip of loosing intensity. There was a continuous connection between the band and the audience all through the entire show. Throughout his performance, the Admiral shifted from one instrument to another, playing guitar, harmonica and keyboards, singing, dancing, changing hats and telling stories to the audience.
His response to the shouts from the crowd was to bring on stage the guy who shouted the loudest: congratulation to that young man who did a good job entertaining the public until Admiral Freebee returned for the encore.
He does not consider himself an innovator and stays loyal to the classical verse-chorus-bridge and melodious songs. But by changing styles and being always motion, he’s channeling his wild energy towards an artistic act which live in concert feels more original his musical roots. Because he’s authentic.