Badly Drawn Boy The Hour of Bewilderbeast, 15th Anniversary Tour
The Barbican, Sunday 26 July 2015
When Badly Drawn Boy released The Hour of Bewilderbeast in 2000 it was an instant masterpiece; creative, captivating and musically brilliant. It didn’t just stand the test of time as one of the best albums of the decade alongside other great debuts by The Streets, The Strokes, Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes and the Arctic Monkeys, like the strongest album of the previous decade (Radiohead’s Ok Computer) and the best so far of this (Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ Push the Sky Away) it endures repeated listening from first note to last.
So a 15th Anniversary Tour is a welcome treat, even from a notoriously moody live performer as Damon Gough. He has played albums in full before in London. In August 2004 at the Royal Festival Hall, a not dissimilar venue, he played the whole of his then new release, One Plus One Is One. He came on stage saying how it didn’t work well the previous night, but fuck it, he was going to do it again. Like his mates the Doves, he has never seemed fully at home playing London. But eleven summers on at a sold out Barbican, full of love, this time he had no doubts, and played a wonderful, energetic set.
He was revelation, the confident performer you’d expect from someone who has covered Springsteen’s Thunder Road, who has played the Johnny Marr guitar piece of Walk Away Renee live with Billy Bragg, and someone who could produce that amazing first album. He switches between guitars and piano, jumps around on stage, waves his face towel above his head, has in-jokes with his band, plays with and physically shakes hands with the crowd and frequently punches the air in triumph.
It was almost like a renewed Badly Drawn Boy. This one that regenerated of the Tardis still wore trainers, a tea cosy woolly hat and an unkempt beard (which he had before every fucker who now drinks craft beer did), but he also recognised the audience, both as someone he could feel comfortable plugging his anniversary t-shirt too and an entity that was not as a judgemental enemy, but a friend.
Thankfully he is still surely miles away being a Bono, trademarketing tea cosies as opposed to sunglasses, but he seemed to have finally learnt from Springsteen, who himself plays albums in full, raises his hand (and the roof) and takes requests. And like Springsteen in 2012 an early London curfew robs the audience of the request it wants, You Were Right. “I know I am. I am always right” says Damon as he rattles through an encore which ends with Silent Sigh before the sound has to stop at 10.30pm in the capital city of the world.
The sound in The Barbican did the album justice though. They may have a chaotic attitude to serving pre-ordered interval drinks and also have one member of staff who earned Gough’s comical wrath when he reflected on a great night, but it was a venue fit for the replaying of Bewilderbeast. The Shining shines, Magic in the Air is magical, Body Rap still inventive, Another Pearl glorious, Once Around the Block buoyant and Pissing in the Wind full of warmth.
A perfect performance of a perfect album. Damon Gough is using this anniversary as a launch pad before he releases new material next year. And he said earlier this month he wants to record many more albums. And if he is on this form live he will be well worth seeing.
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