Live Music + Gig Reviews

Joshua Radin @ Academy 2, Sheffield

13 July 2009

If Zach Braff wasn’t a famous actor, the chances are he’d be running a record label. His daily recommendations of new bands are available on his blog, and he handpicks his film soundtracks with his own personal favourite artistes (memorably, Natalie Portman’s character in Garden State claimed that “The Shins will change your life”).

Braff also has a hand in choosing the music for Scrubs, the show that made him famous – and you only need a couple of viewings to realise that Braff is a fan of winsome, wistful American indie-folk.

So it was inevitable that his best friend, Joshua Radin, a singer/songwriter specialising in winsome, wistful American indie-folk, would one day feature heavily on the Scrubs soundtrack.

Radin’s track Winter was used in a stand-out Scrubs episode My Screw Up a few years ago, which created a snowball of interest – lucrative soundtrack spots on the likes of Brothers And Sisters, One Tree Hill and the inevitable Grey’s Anatomy followed, and he even gave a personal performance at Ellen DeGeneres’ wedding last year.

Yet while he may be becoming more and more well known in the United States, he’s anything but a household name here – as shown by the somewhat intimate crowd at Academy 2. Yet Rabin’s quiet, contemplative folk is perfect for a smaller gathering, and what the show may have lacked in energy was made up for in atmosphere.

Radin is a charming stage presence, all goofy smiles and self-deprecating humour (“I have two ex-girlfriends” he noted with a wry smile, “which is why I have two albums…”). The vast majority of his songs are tales of broken hearts and bad relationships, only broken up by the odd bit of social commentary, such as the Hurricane Katrina story Everything’ll Be Alright. If you’re a fan of the likes of Teddy Thompson, it’s more than likely that Mr Radin will also be your cup of char.

The set list leaned reasonably heavy on his upcoming album Simple Times, but as these new songs are pretty much in the same mould as his debut, it ensured that no long-term fan went away disappointed. Indeed, numbers like the painfully honest break-up song One Of These Days or the excellent You’ve Got Growing Up To Do (about, you guessed it, a relationship break-up) are at the least the equal of anything he’s done in his short career.

There was plenty of between song banter as well, including tales about reading Bob Dylan‘s autobiography in one day, spending eight years apologising for President Bush’s actions, and advice for any men wanting to turn their platonic date into a more romantic proposition (“during this song, just put your arm round them, rest your hand on the small of your back…”).

However, there were two older songs that everyone was waiting for, and cannily Radin left them to near the end. Firstly, the almost supernaturally lovely presence of support act Meiko was brought up to duet in a delightfully low-key version of Today (the song performed at Ellen’s wedding), and then the gorgeous Winter was performed to a hushed Academy.

“We were worried we’d lulled you into a coma then” joked Radin as he came out for an encore, and while it’s true that this was never going to be a gig to throw yourself round to and cover yourself in sweat, it was a rare opportunity to enjoy, close up, some beautifully crafted songs.

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More on Joshua Radin
Joshua Radin – Simple Times
Joshua Radin @ Academy 2, Sheffield