Manchester Music is alive and well…
Think of Manchester music and The Smiths, Joy Division, Happy Mondays and Stone Roses will pop out as the most iconic; post-punk, Factory records and the Hacienda…
I wish I could have been in my teens in those days and turn green with envy when I talk to colleagues who joined in the drug fuelled funtimes and true pride of the Manchester Music Scene. The only links I really have with those bands are dancing along to them among the hoards of other Mancunians my age who are deluded enough to think that they were part of it (no, you were not even a sperm then Mr Bezdance). Go to any ‘indie’ club in Manchester now and you are guaranteed to hear at least one hit of each of the bands listed above, so much so that songs that I love I now hate – cool has become cliche.
It seems we feel the need to always step back into the past to feel any sense of pride in Manchester Music, but I find now that looking back is getting a bit old. The excitement has gone, we’ve heard it all now and yeah, a blast from the past is always welcome but when you hear the same old, same old every week, it gets tired.
What now? Doves recently performed their final gig in the dark and dingy basement beneath the arches of Picadilly Station spelling the end of another great Manchester band. Oasis are over, The Courteeeners are promising at times but in my opinion were a massive let down at this year’s Glastonbury festival and Ian Brown and Mr Scruff are still kicking around – nothing all that exciting though. There’s always Elbow, not a bad word against those lads. Perhaps I am asking for too much – I want another Hacienda, another time of change, but I’ll have to settle with the pill popping dungeon that is the Warehouse Project and gigs in shitholes of the Northern Quarter.
Last night turned this disgustingly OTT pessimism into a heartwarming reassurance that Manchester is proud of it’s musicians and its musicians are proud of Manchester. Whos’s to blame? Damon ‘Badly Drawn Boy’ Gough. He comes and goes and has in his past been slated by critics for talking rather than singing onstage, not putting much into his performance and with recent albums, been criticised for sounding ‘too mainstream’. I disagree. I think he’s the dogs bollocks.
The gig (which felt more like an intimate concert) was at the Royal Northern College of Music. I was at first a little miffed at arriving much earlier than anticipated when I could have had another drink or three, but the miffedness soon fluttered away when I heard the feel-good support band ‘The Candle Thieves’ – complete with plinky plonky mini piano, glockenspiel, beautiful vocals, red balloons, a teddy bear and an inflatable shark. The twosome from Peterborough used the empty seats (of those still “pissing about outside”) to provide us with a perfect amount of audience participation as they handed out drums and shakey eggs etc. Just lovely.
I have to admit, despite calling myself a Badly Drawn Boy fan (I’ve seen him play a loads of times in Manchester and at a converted old cinema in Stockport), I have’t yet had the chance to listen to his new album, the first of a trilogy named It’s What I’m Thinking. If last night was anything to go by though, I’ll be downloading it today (legally of course). Damon complained that he couldn’t see his audience but made it more than clear that he was extremely glad to be back in his home town – a feeling I get everytime I see him play here, it certainly is special to him and what I love about that is that he shows it. Starting off alone on an acoustic, he played a number of old and a few rare tracks that I hadn’t heard live before taken from EPs before the ‘Hour of the Bewilderbeast’ and his Mercury Music Award. There was no setlist – just the lyrics of the songs he had written but couldn’t remember – but then remembered that he did remember the words – “as you can tell it’s not exactly a Greatest hits”. Nobody had any quarms about that.
It’s only when I see Badly Drawn Boy live that I realise how much I miss him when he takes long periods off (excuses include the fact that his kitchen was “fucked” and so he couldn’t write). He is never too tryhard and when he sings his lyrics in that smooth, comforting voice it feels like he’s telling a story before bedtime. The thing with Damon Gough is that unlike many musicians, he comes across as completely normal, a family man, a hobo who made it. His uniform of ill-fitting trousers, a t-shirt and tweed jacket and of course the iconic ‘teacosy’ beanie hat say it all really – no frills. He chats to the audience as he would with a group of mates in the pub – but never too much, just enough to keep us humoured with his awful jokes, “This one got to Number 1 in 45 countries. Nah, Number 45 in 1 country”. The poor man puts himself down so much throughout the set, saying he’s “funny like that”, but as someone who knows damn well how horrible it is to never be satisfied with anything I do, my heart went out to him as he went on to play songs from the new album but shaked his head throughout and repeatedly apologised for messing up. We wouldn’t have noticed – the boy needs a wee confidence boost, but then he wouldn’t be who he is.
The highlights for me were two massively cute duets with his 9 year old daughter Edie, who provided both vocals and a piano solo to great applause, and towards the end and backed by a full band including Doves keyboardist, he played a couple of requests ‘Born in the UK’ and after a quick fag break, my favourite, ‘Silent Sigh’. His piano playing astounds me (though he would say he’s shit). He seemed as though he wanted the night to go on and on – surrounded by friends, family and adoring fans, he and his band left the stage. The applause didn’t stop, and what seemed like an impromptu performance was introduced as “the song I heard when I was 14 that made me know what I wanted to do”. I couldn’t tell if he was crying a little, but I wouldn’t have been surprised at all – it felt like it meant a lot. Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Thunderroad’ ended the night perfectly and I left feeling a warm wave of refreshed love of Manchester and its wonderfully unpretentious musicians.
This is my first attempt at writing a thing about music, so please forgive me if it’s utter rubbish. Thanks.Tagged in: badly drawn boy, bands, gigs, hacienda, manchester, manchester music, music
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