Completely and utterly adored.

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London Camden Dingwalls

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London Camden Dingwalls

Straight outta the laundry basket, albatross of brilliance concealed modestly beneath hair and spectacles, nobody could ever accuse [a]Lou Barlow[/a] of craven crowd-pleasing tactics.

It’s popular folklore that where [a]Sebadoh[/a] roam, a shambling nemesis follows, but tonight Lou plays alone as “one part Folk Implosion”, temporarily abandoned by his partner John Davis and (shameful indie treachery though it is to applaud it) free of the democracy that often hamstrings [a]Sebadoh[/a] live. So if he wants to play us a sample of his cat Hector, he can. If he wants to do a little bit of disco-dancing, that’s fine. And if he wants to amuse the audience with a snippet of ‘I Wanna Be Adored’, then he absolutely must.

It’s also fabulously appropriate for an evening bizarrely touched by the after-hours feel of a lo-fi karaoke bar. Accompanied only by his guitar and an array of backing tapes apparently held together with Scotch tape and string, Lou takes a screwdriver to the delicate clockwork intricacies of Folk Implosion‘s glorious ‘One Part Lullaby’ album. Laying bare the cogs and wires of ‘Mechanical Man’ and ‘EZLA’, the whole matchstick model of LA rock and bittersweet hillside living is beautifully dismantled. He tells us how he had to perform the rites-of-passage ‘Free To Go’ on a television show earlier today, and was so nervous his fingers slid off the strings. “Yeah!” he agrees delightedly with a heckler, “I [I]fucked it up[/I]!”

Yes, some things never change. Yet left to his own mad-emotional-scientist devices, you’d have to analyse your memory banks in depth to recall such a merry, relaxed show. “How may I serve you, my fair audience?” he asks, and as always, the answer is ‘Soul And Fire’. And then he goes on to play possibly every song he’s ever written in all their uncomfortable, cringe-or-sigh glory – the peeled-raw ‘Skull’, ‘Tree’, touchingly dedicated to Robyn Hitchcock, a daft ‘Gimme Indie Rock’ – and an astonishing night mutates into a very [I]long[/I] astonishing night.

Sometimes, a benevolent dictator is all you want. Raise the statues to an international treasure. Completely and utterly adored.