“When’s the last time you bought a CD off a band member?” “Probably when I was about 12!”
So runs the conversation heard at the end of C Duncan’s set at the ICA. Finishing with time to spare, the singer-songwriter and his four-piece band have assembled behind the merchandise stall to meet fans and sell copies of new album The Midnight Sun, lovely artwork and all.
The episode offers further proof of Duncan’s approachable persona, and caps a gig where his love for the assembled throng is nothing short of charming. It is an approach that extends itself, in more wistful form, to his music.
Not for him a difficult second album, for The Midnight Sun has followed the Mercury-nominated Architect with almost indecent speed. Nor is it a pale imitation, for its musical content shows a very pleasing will and need to push on, developing his already detailed sound but acquiring a steely edge at the same time.
The Glaswegian and his band have the extra assurance on stage that critical acclaim – and the outright love of some enthusiastic fans – can bring. They begin with a trio from the new album, layered with the same winning four-part harmonies but now bringing much more rhythmic impetus to the table, daring to go off the beat as well as offering unusual harmonies.
Like You Do makes an especially strong impact, the extra depth to the bass showing how in time Duncan’s music is certain to transmit to much bigger stages than this. The remote Last To Leave is a lovelorn beauty, while Other Side has a similarly powerful reach, the brittle piano giving it darker shading and impressive stature.
Good as these are, Wanted To Want It Too is the musical peak of the night from the new album, the bass coming through to the front with penetrating surety, keyboard lines dancing fuzzily in the background. Duncan’s voice is versatile, and the electronic edges to this song suit it perfectly.
Intimate venues such as the Institute of Contemporary Arts suit C Duncan perfectly for now, but his music is now ready to reach bigger stages. The stellar keyboard sounds deserve a more expansive light show to match and the vocals – which peak for frequent emotional highs – give an open, weather-beaten feel to the music, like standing at the top of a mountain peak and feeling the air on your face.
Complementing the new material are rapturously received songs from Architect. These, too, have greater assurance in their delivery. The acappella end to We Go is beautifully delivered and completely unhurried, the four voices exposed on stage, while the encore of The Garden is a triumph, the music slowly oscillating under the romantic warmth of Duncan’s voice.
A subtle but lasting glow follows the crowd home after this gig, happy in the confirmation that C Duncan is definitely here for the long haul.