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London SE1 Royal Festival Hall

He opts for intimacy as the best policy, shunts his two glamorous keyboardists offstage, and bursts into an a cappella rendition of [a]Liz Phair[/a]'s [B]'Perfect World'[/B]...

Relationships. They have a habit of fucking things up. For Ben Lee, they are the muse that feeds his pocket-diary prose, that coax his fingers from fret to love-wrought fret - but tonight, everything is failing to connect. First, there's the feedback that's loud when he wants to be quiet, and then there's the audience, sitting on the floor.



For a young man usually bolstered by a network of helpful chums (label bosses Beastie Boys, girlfriend actress Claire Danes, occasional collaborator Sean Lennon), this vexed reception proves disconcerting. His cautious demeanour suggests that he came here to bare his soul, but fears a catastrophic result.



Finally, he opts for intimacy as the best policy, shunts his two glamorous keyboardists offstage, and bursts into an a cappella rendition of Liz Phair's 'Perfect World'. He unleashes the anguished 'Burn To Shine' with tense catharsis, then abandons his mic for the prickly, hushed 'Sleepwalking'.



Still, Lee treads a fine line between the confessional and the superficial. Marrying barbed lyrics with buoyant melodies, he fluctuates between '80s teen-flick pop and the sombre dexterity of a young Dylan. When a seam splits in his rhinestone-festooned shirt, he panics, but refuses to take it off. "Some things you don't want to see," he explains. Although Lee wears his heart on his sleeve, there's only so much he'll reveal.

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