Tom McRae - The Mill (Preston) -7.11.03
For some who's released two sumptuous, critically acclaimed albums, Tom McRae has never the less not enjoyed commercial success like his fellow contemporaries David Gray and Turin Brakes. It's a surprisingly impressive turn out tonight with students and the more mature fans.
With a keyboard player and cellist, McRae has stripped down the instrumentation to it's bare bones resulting in a sound that is haunting, beguiling and remarkable. Performing songs from his Mercury Music Prize nominated self titled album and his latest offering "Just Like Blood" Tom is in his element. A confident, subtle slow burner of a performance which has his audience captive throughout. His rich voice, so delicate and raw at the same time really does the lyrics justice and the emotion and heartfelt is genuinely realized. "You Only Disappear" and "Bordersong" are especially indicative of this. Tom takes us into his confidence telling us that he goes down well in Norway where he's just finished touring (a country that has a high suicide rate he tells us) and that it's his first visit to Preston but he'll thankfully be back. The unforgettable "You Cut Her Hair" and "Storms in The Distance" are played brilliantly with Tom explaining that one of the songs was dedicated to Tony Blair during the Iraqi conflict in a sarcastic and cutting fashion of course.
"Train Don't Stop" turns into a spontaneous sing a long from the crowd who know it word for word. A young girls at the front is so eager to hear "The Boy With The Bubble Gun" that Tom hands her the microphone to sing a few lines, but the teasing troubadour fulfils her wishes by singing it himself in full during the encore.
This has been such an enjoyable intimate gig from Tom McRae. What fails to be mentioned amongst his complex, chilling, honest and practically realized songs is the dry hump humour he exudes and the naturalness of his live performances. It's rare nowadays to have such a prolific songwriter and performer as Tom McRae and the people of Preston were in the presence of a true star in the making.
Nicholas Paul Godkin
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