Live Music + Gig Reviews

Gavin Degraw @ Barfly, London

22 March 2005

If the weather has any influence on the sort of music an artist makes, then it’s easy to see why the likes of Coldplay and Keane dwell on the more melancholic, drizzly side of the coin while our American cousins build camp fires on the beach and manage to remain fairly upbeat even in the most trying of times.

Such provision has allowed acts like Matchbox 20 to shift shed-loads of units Stateside without us Brits really catching on, or caring very much at all. Tonight might be the start of a change, however, as the Camden Barfly plays host to some high-class and unreservedly upbeat MOR rock courtesy of one of one fast-rising songster – Gavin Degraw.

Support act Cass and her guitarist Pete provide some mellow yet agreeable, folk-fuelled, acoustic numbers in the vein of Aussie stars The Waifs. What separates tonight’s performers from firmly established acts on the scene is a dash of technicality and a larger quantity of lyrical wit. With a little refining and some slightly stronger tunes, Cass should soon be up there with the best of ’em.

After a lengthy delay, it’s easy to see why Gavin Degraw is a record company’s dream for never has a tortured artist looked so endearing, had a voice with so much smouldering soul and managed to carry the whole package off with an air of humility that’s oft too rare in music these days.

With an ample supply of squawking teenage schoolgirls and their spotty companions enraptured, the opener and soon to be smash hit Just Friends, is exactly the sort of piano-led, easy-to-swallow soft rock that the Barfly is packed out to see. The girls respond with an ever-annoying barrage of high-pitched marriage proposals and other affection-laden remarks.

For the rest of the evening, the Asthon Kutcher lookalike continues to woo his already converted audience and has them hanging on his every spoken and musical word. Follow Through, for instance, is a catchy little number that develops into an extended jam courtesy of Degraw’s five-piece band, who are probably more accustomed to playing venues thrice this size, but still seem content with tonight’s cozy atmosphere. They even throw in an impromptu cover of Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone to add some Black Crowes-meets-Lenny Kravitz energy to the set.

With a plethora of teenage soaps all jousting to fill the shoes of the now defunct Dawson’s Creek, there will always be a need for heartfelt ballads that tug away on those adolescent heartstrings and it is perhaps here that Mr Degraw will get his biggest paycheques. Unless of course the sun starts shining down a little more upon our fair isle, in which case the kids might start to realise that it’s ok to smile occasionally.

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Gavin Degraw @ Barfly, London