As people walked into the Studio Theatre in theWarwick Arts Centre, Nick Drake‘s magnificent albumBryter Layter was playing over the PA system. Ifthere was ever a good omen for a gig, this was indeedit. The word on David Mead was that, according to thequotes, he was “the David Gray it’s OK to like” and”Jeff Buckley for The Corrs generation”.
CertainlyDavid Gray is not nearly as cool to like now as he wasa couple of years ago when no-one knew who he was, sothe first comment is definitely very positive. ButJeff Buckley via The Corrs? Well, I’m not sure sureabout that one…
Supporting Mead tonight was the sprite-like Pina,newly signed to Peter Gabriel‘s Real World label.Coming from Austria via county Cork (!), she sangsongs that were for the most part deeply personal.She introduced one saying, “This is a song Iwrote two days after my husband left me”. Alone onstage with just an acoustic guitar, what came acrossmost forcefully was her voice, an unusual mix ofbreathy and gritty, occasionally slipping into abanshee howl. Her songs did not come across well live,but it will be interesting to listen to her debutalbum Quick Look.
As for Mead, the main man of the night, I have toadmit I came away slightly disappointed that it hadn’tbeen him that’d been doing an acoustic set tonight.
Playing songs from his 1999 debut The Luxury of Timeand his soon to be re-released second album ‘Mine andYours’, he showed himself to be a very fine showman.Based in New York, he’s smart, witty and immediatelylikeable – everything you’d expect of a younggood-looking singer songwriter.
The crowd of 150 orso in the studio seemed predominantly middle-class andmiddle-aged, no doubt a result of Mead’s currentsingle, the excellent Comfort, having beenplaylisted on both BBC Radio 2 and Virgin Radio. They lovedwhat he had to offer, pop songs in the classic mould,big and loud enough to make you come away feelingyou’ve been rocked, but still quiet enough that yourears don’t ring afterwards.
His songs are just aslikeable as the man, and each song has somethingmemorable about it, but it doesn’t feel like he’sreally stretching himself. When David Gray plays livehe puts everything into his songs and there is a magicabout his music. With David Mead, he is as good as onecan get without having that ‘something’ that makes aperson special.
However, for everyone there, theundoubted glimpse of that elusive magic was seen whenthe bassist and the drummer left the stage and Meadstood there alone, a man putting himself across with aguitar and a voice that, raised in song, is sometimesindeed reminiscent of Jeff Buckley. With his songsstripped down, Mead is at his very best. While Idream of an acoustic album being his next project, thelikelihood of this is very slim.
At the moment, he is loved by the middle-aged and themiddle class, yet making music that is not as good ashe can make it. If he could only leave the middle ofthe road for a bit, David Mead could shed his cocoonand become something very special indeed.