We stand uncomfortably, bemused and wondering if we too are being challenged by folk genius or if we're just being totally fucked about...
“Dwindling crowds don’t bother me much”, Badly Drawn Boy, Damon Gough says. For all the ambling, blathering, false endings, and armpit sniffing that Gough gets up to in this epic of a show, it is amazing that the crowd doesn’t disappear altogether.
The man has loads of material-commentary, stand-up comedy and what-not-and he’s not shy about using it. First there is his title, “King of Shambolic”, as dubbed by the British press. Then there is the 20,000 pound Mercury prize. “I gave it to charity: The Badly Drawn Boy mortgage,” he says. Then there his impression of Mick Jagger,
squat-legged and clapping, trying to stop the Hell’s Angels at Altamont: “Keef, where’s Brian? Oh he died. What song do we have next? Who wants to
stay?”. I bet he’s just pretending to lose the plot. He probably never had one to begin with.
So he’s not always funny, that doesn’t mean he isn’t clever or good. He is. When the crowd gets antsy (and they do), Gough knows how to lure them right back. “Settle down. Ease into it. Get yourself drunk, we’ve got a lot of songs to play,” he says, offering up another seductive melody. ‘Stone On The Water’, sparkles with strummy whimsy, ‘This Song’ is sweetly ironic with its pop promises and packaging, and ‘Another Pearl’ more than lives up to it’s name. Gough guts songs on the spot and stuffs their substance into other hides he can prop up and play with. Gough plays’Disillusion’ twice, first solo with some power pop riffage, then funked-up, with the full Badly Drawn Band treatment.
When Bob Dylan first went electric, stepping into the circle of hand-holders that worshipped him, grabbing those gob-smacked folk-fans by their goat-beards, and threatening to beat them all senseless with the very halo of genius they had fashioned for him, people couldn’t tell if he was making a point or merely taking the piss. Two-and-a-half hours into Badly Drawn Boy’s first American tour, we stand uncomfortably, bemused and wondering if we too are being challenged by folk genius or if we’re just being totally fucked about. Maybe it’s a bit of both, and that’s okay, cause when he says, “Thanks for making my best first gig in America ever,” we smile and without thinking say, “Thank you for making this our best first gig in America too.”