The critics and the public alike loved The Hour Of Bewilderbeast, the first proper LP from Damon Gough (aka Badly Drawn Boy). Among minor criticisms was the suggestion that, at 18 tracks, it was perhaps a trite too long.
If Gough read this criticism at all, his set is a blatant two-fingers-up to it. He played, with the ‘flu, two hours of the bewilderbeast. He does not do half measures.
I was quite surprised by his appearance and his live act, expecting a light set sweetly sung by somebody tall and thin. Instead a shuffling figure with a teacosy on his head takes centre stage, surrounded by a slick band who were perfectly drilled for his random movements. These included leaping forward to the audience and knocking over his Stag repeatedly, shaking hands with any girls he could find, changing instruments and microphones throughout and even changing personality.
At the start, I began to dislike him, largely for his unbridled egoism. Again and again he mentioned that The Hour Of Bewilderbeast won the Mercury Music Prize, then he procured a towel, wiped under his arms and inside his skanky looking loose jeans and then offered it up for the audience. What amazed me more was that a large portion of the audience wanted the item. In the end, he threw it at a petite girl on the opposite side of the audience from us and we were, while pitying her, grateful that it didn’t land on us.
The album, EPs and random ad-libs of seven minutes made up the set, including a stomp of a rendition of Disillusion and a seven minute epic called What’s Yer Name, where Damon struck up song based on audience members’ first names. It was towards the end of the set that we began to notice that he was actually rather a decent bloke as well as (of course) being thoroughly talented, when he claimed the title of Knobhead for himself, before telling us that if he could win the Mercury Music Prize then anyone could. It was rousing. His sheer effort at singing through a ‘flu was appreciated too, as was his multi-instrumental playing skills, switching from keyboard to electric guitar to acoustic guitar to piano and back, with a Poltergeist-esque vocoder attached to one microphone.
Overall, the audience left with a warm feeling inside, having seen a thoroughly pleasant gig and heard some excellent music. Damon Gough is now off to America. It is increasingly amazing to consider his success already; there’s no telling what he may do next time round.