Badly Drawn Boy/Doves: Manchester Castlefields Arts Arena

Resilience is the key...

Liverpool has closed for the night and Ken Livingstone’s spectacular in London has been cancelled. If this is the real millennium then the weather and the collapsing national infrastructure is certainly apocalyptic. It’s going to take a hardy breed to brave the elements at the outdoor Castlefield arena, but tonight’s two local heroes and Manchester’s superstars of the year are standing up to the conditions. In very large parkas and huge furry hats.

The crowd may be falling a little short of the 10,000 expected here tonight but Doves aren’t going to let that get in the way. Resilience is their key, and as they strike up with ‘New York’ and ‘The Cedar Room’ our outer extremities may be freezing cold but the lost souls who’ve made it here tonight have their hearts well and truly warmed. In an act of mad altruism Jimi throws his hat into the crowd and thanks us for braving the weather. (Two songs later he asks for it back). Doves have a surprise for us at the end. A mad rendition of ‘Space Days’, their first release all those years ago as Sub-Sub, a charging throb of ecstasy nostalgia that drives one brave raver to climb on top of a chip van and and party like it’s 1992.

Headliner Badly Drawn Boy is mad and bad tonight. The characteristic shambolics are there right from the start. If he was your pissed-up uncle mumbling to himself on Boxing Day you’d be really embarrassed. Instead Damon Gough is a lonely and brilliant genius tonight. He shouts, strums and banters through ‘Another Pearl’ and in-between songs stops the band to inform the crowd that Ian Brown is a “good shag” and pretends to ring Finley Quaye from his mobile to return his recent slagging off of the be-hatted one.

He does no favours to himself by dedicating a song to “everyone here who’s had an E…you fucking sad wankers”, and soon the bottles start to fly. Forty minutes in and he’s had enough and he’s off. Part Ernie Wise and part Harry Nilsson he at one point sings “I don’t wanna live life in the shade”, and on tonight’s part crazed and part heartbreaking performance there seems little danger of that in 2001.

Neil Thomson