Birmingham Ronnie Scott’s

Unlike [B]Yazz[/B], the only way for [a]Mark Eitzel[/a] is down.

Unlike Yazz, the only way for [a]Mark Eitzel[/a] is down. Indeed, he’s spent the last 15 years brutally dissecting despair – liquor, heartbreak, desperation, more liquor – occasionally sounding as unreal, if not as consumed with self-loathing, as [a]Steps[/a]. Who, then, is this charmer onstage? It’s as if the world’s most troubled man has broken through his own bleak outlook to some sort of battered Buddhist acceptance. Life sucks – but it’s fate to live, love, fuck it up, get damaged, get over it. Somehow. You’ve gotta laugh.

Eitzel could easily coast it tonight. The seated, 30-something audience (informed hecklers, declarations of love) are there for the taking. But, accompanied by guitar and piano, he gloriously reaffirms his status as one of our most articulate and perceptive writers. In this atmosphere – daft gags, new songs, self-deprecating asides, the odd sentimental piano-bar ballad – Eitzel‘s often overlooked humour (see ‘Johnny Mathis’ Feet’) is spotlit, while the helplessness of, say, ‘Gratitude Walks’ is thrown into stark relief. Eitzel‘s career seems to be going nowhere, but new tunes like the atonal ‘Without You’ and pop vignette ‘Shine’ prove his creativity is unstinting. Success, however, would probably just make him miserable.