Badly Drawn Boy – Bridgewater Hall – 8.9.04

It’s hard to believe that this podgy little man with his scruffy clothes, unkempt beard and tea cosy has recorded the soundtrack to a major motion picture “About A Boy”, won the prestigious Mercury Music Prize for his album “The Hour Of The Bewilderbeast” and had a string of hit singles. Appearances can indeed be deceptive.

Tonight’s gig at The Bridgewater Hall is the first of two Badly Drawn Boy is playing and to use a football analogy it’s a game of two halves. The first half is quite simply the new album “1+1=1” played live. The stage is littered with an assortment of garden equipment, gnomes, a parasol, chairs and sunflowers. - Very summery, even if it is September. To add class and sophistication amongst the archetypal band set-up there’s a flutist and string section. “This Is That New Song” is typically BDBD, self effacing, gently sardonic and full of genuine warmth. “Year of The Rat” the recent single is naggingly catchy with some sharply observed lyrics. Dedications come ten a penny from Mr Gough. “Mon” was written when Elliot Smith took his own life, the instrumental “Stockport” is his Dad’s birthplace while “Lifetimes” was penned after Damon met Bruce Springsteen for the second time after he’d played Old Trafford when the New Jersey icon played a song for Damon’s son Oscar Bruce. One a more sombre note he closed his first set with “Holy Grail”, a song in memory of his grandfather who was killed in World War 2.

After a brief interval Damon and his band return to the stage for a set of hits and much more. Alone Damon performs B Side “Don’t Ask Me” which sarcastically goes out to enemy number one George Bush. With delusions of grandeur Damon performs a wedding ceremony for a couple of young lovers on stage who tenderly embrace each other and slow dance to “The Shining”, then Gough pronounces them husband and wide. “Have You Fed The Fish” is performed especially for his girlfriend Claire who he missed immensely while he was over in LA recording the album. “Silent Sigh” is played for his mum in the audience tonight, along with probably all of BDB’s friends and family who have supported him over the years. After the single “You Were Right” we hear an extended version of “Once Around The Block” which has Damon improvising and riffing in his own idiosyncratic style. He may be a sentimental soul, but his defiant streak is as strong as ever. Damon threatens not to play tomorrow night if the plugs are pulled if the performance goes past the curfew. More alarmingly Damon implies that he may retire after these two gigs due to his disillusionment with the music industry. Let’s hope he changes his mind. We need Badly Drawn Boy and though he probably wouldn’t admit it, he needs us too.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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