JONATHAN WILSON, Islington Assembly Hall – Evening Standard, 5 Dec 2013

Shoes kicked off, hair tied back, incense stick lit, Jonathan Wilson was well prepared for the Californian hippy odyssey that he served up last night. Following Gentle Spirit, a lovely but low-key debut album in 2011, this year’s follow-up, Fanfare, really cut loose. It was bigger, louder and better, and in concert the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter piled on the solos close to breaking point.

An unremarkable vocalist, his voice had more weight here than its breathy style on record. Really this was a showcase for his abilities as a guitarist. Dear Friend started out as a gentle waltz before he set off on long, meandering notes, with cymbals fizzing behind him. The descending chimes of Desert Raven had echoes of The Eagles, an indication of the retro world he occupies.

Fanfare features guest appearances from Jackson Browne, Graham Nash and David Crosby, all a generation away from this 38-year-old throwback. They weren’t here in Islington, of course, but their world was perfectly evoked in the easy groove of  Fazon and the expansive, extravagant Valley of the Silver Moon.

The five-strong band added different shades with keyboards, though the wind instruments and Steinway piano that grace the album were absent. A rare moment of sharp focus, on the pounding, sunny Love to Love, hinted at hitmaker potential but mostly he was off in space on songs that were longer than his hair.

The bare feet spoke of unconfined music. These were less songs, more launching pads for expert exploration. Even the venue was a time warp but this was a backwards journey worth taking.