Review: Kiefer Sutherland, York Barbican, August 8

AT 9pm precisely, because time always matters to the man who played 24's Jack Bauer, Kiefer Sutherland entered in white Stetson, cream jacket, black shirt and skinny dark trousers.

He was on a mission of a different kind, far from his screen work as actor, producer and director. Here was Sutherland, singer, songwriter, rhythm guitarist and storyteller, revelling in a live performance, away from the repetitive strains of filming high-stakes action dramas.

He had his Barbican crowd on their feet from the start... on account of having requested a standing gig, like ska veterans The Specials earlier this year. A couple of rows on the balcony level and the slips to the sides were occupied too; the rest was cordoned off by black curtaining, both to lend the show more intimacy and to make the Barbican feel full: a canny decision.

Roving from side to side and star-jumping on the spot too, Sutherland brought an immediate energy to leading his band that transferred to the audience from the off. Later he would sink to his knees on his rectangle of carpet, recalling Leonard Cohen at Leeds First Direct Arena on his last British tour.

This is no mere mid-life vanity project for Sutherland, now 52: he has penned two albums: 2016's Down In A Hole being followed by this year's Reckless & Me, whose cover imagery formed the stage backdrop for Kiefer, his lead guitarist, bassist, keyboard player and drummer.

Such a line-up denoted songs rooted in country but happy to straddle Americana, AOR and the blues too. Kristofferson, Cash, Petty and Springsteen were paramount influences, without suffocating Sutherland's own writing that travels down classic American paths.

Where acting makes connections with the viewer by virtue of the story, says Sutherland, his songs are personal stories from his life, but with themes that resonate with us all: "Friends of yours are going to die, you’re going to be let down, and your heart will be broken," as he puts it.

He was yet to decide whether title track Reckless & Me was about himself or the horse of that name he rode in his rodeo days. Both in that case, Kiefer.

Best among the confessional bunch was This Is How It's Done, a bar-room honky-tonk blast that showed off Sutherland's well-worn, warm rasp of a voice, well suited to an encore of Dylan's Knockin' On Heaven's Door too.

He recalled how he knew from as young as four that his dad, Kelly's Heroes actor Donald, was not like other dads, way cooler by far, in one of many amusing anecdotes that peppered a set that finished at 10.30pm on the dot. Jack Bauer precision timing, once more, of course.