Badly Drawn Boy / Jane Weaver : Manchester Night&Day

A strange mix of ego and bumbling Boltonian vulnerability - precious entertainment...

There was only ever going to be one way to launch Twisted Nerve’s new monthly club, White Rabbit. Four years on from his first faltering shows around Manchester’s Northern Quarter, Badly Drawn Boy is back on his home turf, a very hot ‘n’ humid Night&Day. After all the glitz and hits and one or two awkward, confrontational rock shows, it’s time for Damon Gough to win back Manchester’s faith.

But first, Jane Weaver, and her dazzling, doleful pop songs. The [a]Doves[/a] whirr ‘n’ click of ‘Like An Aspen Leaf’, the ghostly ‘Why Don’t You Smile?’ which flourishes into a [a]Bruce Springsteen[/a]-on-oestrogen epic and the killer ‘Ridiculous’ – boasting Johnny Marr-style heartbreaking chord changes, topped with swooping cello – will all enrich your life. Search them out.

Some time later, Badly Drawn Boy walks on stage reading a magazine (cover: Hugh Grant), and declares, “I’m determined not to make this a funny show”. Then, he accuses a heckler of having fishy knickers, quotes Peter Kay and explains how he’s just got back from putting his kids to bed. Only Damon Gough – a strange mix of ego and bumbling Boltonian vulnerability – would have the temerity to do this. That is, take the piss (out of himself), reframe ‘the gig’, be so [I]un[/I]rock ‘n’ roll. Perhaps it will only ever truly work in smaller venues, where passing fans don’t demand consummate professionalism for their money. But tonight – as he meanders through fragments of a 35-song set list with the battered Everyman poignancy of Billy Bragg, as much as [a][/a] – it still feels special, unpredictable and totally honest. Two new songs, ‘All Eyes On You’ and ‘What Is It Now?’, sound like future classics. The only sour note in this house-party atmosphere is hearing Gough slagging off former Twisted Nerve heroes [a][/a], over some business/ writing-credits wrangle which would be better kept private.

Of course it’s chaotic, with peaks and troughs, and dead-endings and stops ‘n’ starts, but how’s about we stop debating that, eh? It’s simple: if you want neatness and order and CD-quality recreations of your favourite songs, don’t go and see Badly Drawn Boy play live. But believe us, you’ll miss out. This is precious entertainment.

Tony Naylor