Badly Drawn Boy - Manchester Apollo - 29.11.02

The shuffling, scruffy, shambolic figure of Damon Gough ambles on stage dressed as though he's about to embark on an expedition to the Antarctic wearing a winter coat and his trademark tea cosy headgear. Being the jolly japester he undoubtedly is he launches in a short ditty with the lyrics "I could be Darius. I could be Will Young" before singing the final words which were coming thick and fast "But i'm Badly Drawn Boy!!!!". This time seemingly with a fixed line-up Damon is joined by ex Smith Andy Rourke on bass and a cast of unidentified locals following previous tours with Alfie and Audioweb as his backing band. Badly Drawn Boy" is excited to be, in his own words "in my home town of Manchester" - but hang on. I was led to believe he was from Bolton. Unlike previous shows in Manchester which have been events rather than simply gigs, tonight the unpredictable is restrained, focused yet just a little bit ordinary...a word not normally associated from a man who frequently improvises on stage. And it isn't helped that new album "Have You Fed The Fish?" is actually slightly disappointing following on from the sheer brilliance of his "About A Boy" original soundtrack.

Damon appears to dedicate every single song to his family, friends and even more bizarrely a fish belonging to Andy Votel's dad. Apparently if you put bread near the surface of the water the fish would jump out and eat it. In the world of animals in rock it's not going to give the Prince of Darkness Ozzy Osbourne sleepless nights. I mean it hardly compares to wild acts of debauchery like biting the head off a bat, but I guess in Bolton you have to make you're own entertainment. It's somewhat of a blessing in disguise though that chit chat is kept a minimum following his Manchester Academy show last year which resulted in a 3 hour show (with approximately 60% of it making up Damon's dedications).

Recent single "Silent Sigh" is a triumphantly melodic masterpiece performed being the keyboards like an indie Elton John in his 70s period of course. We are bombarded with a marathon guitar solo and a segment of the show when Damon serenades a lucky lady called Rebecca at the front of the stage. A bizarre song about Damon's dad in a gang burning a hill down in Manchester is an odd choice, but shows great affection for his father as is apparent to any member of tonight's audience. Early singles, album tracks and a few verses of Dexy's "Come On Eileen" which he recorded for the One Love charity album are all included, but appear to be performed in a workmanlike fashion without much of his charm, eccentricities or unpredictability qualities that normally go hand in hand with BDB.

The only whiff of rebellion comes during the final song "Pissing In The Wind" but even these theatrics are dangerously close to rock n roll clichés dating back to Pete Townsend smashing up the stage. In comparison Badly Drawn Boy's contribution to the act of mindless destruction is stroppilly kicking over a table, throwing his mic to the ground and storming off stage like a toddler. It's more a case of Badly Drawn Bore than the hour of the bewilderbeast. When you think about it, how alternative is BDB? He changes titles of his songs for radio airplay of "Spitting In The Wind", has Joan Collins in the video and writes music for a Hugh Grant movie. It seems the alternative is now as mainstream as S Club, Kylie and Gareth Gates....only not as well groomed!!!

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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