Live Music + Gig Reviews

Badly Drawn Boy @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

30 October 2000

Badly Drawn Boy

Badly Drawn Boy

My first thought regarding the phenomenal performance from Badly Drawn Boy was if you weren’t there to see and feel the Damon Gough experience why should I tell you all about it! Badly Drawn Boy is special and we are witnessing something so far removed from the squalid tantrum and tears world of Robbie vs Liam.

Part of Damon Gough’s allure is that he regards his own genius as perfectly normal, he glibly chats away as he flits from one beautifully crafted tune to another, side tracked in between by a rift that seems to have just entered his head and then declaring, “that sounds alright, I think I should develop that”. Damon is also wonderfully devoid of the manufactured arrogance one associates with Rock and Pop Stars, he is however, very pleased with himself and so obviously ecstatic that he has the platform to speak to the world. He isn’t however, going to hog this opportunity for himself, after performing a brilliant cover of Left Banke‘s Walk Away Renee, he pleads with the audience to check them out and then seemingly suddenly grasping at an opportunity, lists a whole host of favourites and influences.

Everything Damon does is about pushing back boundaries, his live performance is a refreshing mixture of structure and chaos. Damon is want to go into a rant and trade Time Bandit’s quotes with Twisted Nerve partner, Andy Votel (“Andy is my partner in crime”), at the sound desk or play a £9.99 child’s toy guitar but just when you think he has totally lost it he strikes up with one of Badly Drawn Boy’s brilliant intros and all is well. Damon wears his overwhelming pleasure with entertaining us tonight on his sleeve and at times his show is dangerously close to falling into one long acceptance speech as he constantly thanks the people who have made it possible. His live performances are littered with praise for his parents, girlfriend, Uncle Bob, budgerigar…

There is more to Badly Drawn Boy than musical genius – he interacts with the crowd and his band in such a naturally entertaining way, sometimes verging more towards stand up comedy, “I’d rather be from Dunstable than a Manc” shouts a member of the crowd, Damon instantly stops and hushes the crowd so that he can hear this man, before giving him the thumbs up and continuing. Damon was born in Dunstable (however he has now done stubble and moved on to a beard). On another occasion he uses a microphone that distorts his voice into a Pinkie and Perky squeak whilst impersonating Jimmy Savile, he then tells us “I don’t know how to follow that, I might just get my arse out”. He decides instead to scroll through the umpteen familiar intros and melodies that appear on his brilliant debut album The Hour Of Bewilderbeast, getting a rising tone of approval and satisfaction from the audience, at the end of which he declares “good, they are all working”.

There is no encore, that would be the sort of pretension that we have been spared all night. Instead he announces that we have time for two more songs however, having been on for two hours he is obviously told otherwise and reacts like a little boy who has been told to go to bed, “aww, two little songs?” he asks someone to stage right. The answer is obviously no and we get an extraordinarily rousing and extended “bed avoiding” version of Epitaph.

Damon’s performance may be all too much for the purists who feel that musical experimentation should be done at home and only brought out when finished and polished.

I read once that Jimi Hendrix had been known to drop acid, lock himself in a dark room and Jam for hours. I am not trying to compare BDB to the late great Jimi but if the idea of a one to one with Jimi and his guitar would excite you then I suggest BDB could be for you. If however the last time you really enjoyed an artist it was because ‘they really sounded like their album’ steer well clear!

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More on Badly Drawn Boy
Badly Drawn Boy – It’s What I’m Thinking Part One: Photographing Snowflakes
Badly Drawn Boy – Is There Nothing We Could Do?
Badly Drawn Boy + Isobel Campbell @ Bloomsbury Ballroom, London
Badly Drawn Boy – Born In The UK
Badly Drawn Boy @ Royal Festival Hall, London