Demonstrating the depth of talent within Domino Records at the moment, two of their more unconventional stars in the making took to the stage in London as part of a nationwide tour. In August, Lightspeed Champion was to be found supporting Eugene McGuinness at his showcase gig at the Social. However, with his album already out, it was now time for McGuinness to return the favour.
The first thing that strikes you about McGuinness is how young he looks. So he should – he is only 22, after all. Armed with just an acoustic guitar and the occasional backing vocals of Emmy The Great, his songs were stripped back to their bare bones, a task that will always expose weaker songs. But his work survived the test, although it is probably better heard with full accompaniment.
He got recent single Monsters Under The Bed out of the way early on in the set and looked composed throughout. Forthcoming single Bold Street was a delight – a complex song with some faultless singing. Along with some of the other tracks, most of which were taken from the album, it showed that McGuinness doesn’t have a fear of risk-taking and is prepared take his songs and his vocals in some unexpected directions.
Of course avid comic book fan Lightspeed Champion, aka Devonte Hynes, can also throw in some unexpected moves, tonight taking to the stage dressed in a Spiderman outfit. I’d love to say that he could pull it off, but with his dog-eared hat and trainers he was more a cross between Spider-Man and Bin Man. But he’s a braver man than most.
Emmy The Great reappeared for his entire set, providing some perfect harmonies and proving herself an asset to both performers throughout the night. The violinist accompanying made those of us who gave up our instruments at Grade 5 wonder whether maybe we could’ve been rock stars after all…
Hynes kicked off with a new song which he claims was written for a girl who happened to be in the audience that night, but who didn’t know it was about her. If you’ve ever read his blog you’d be aware of his tales of complete uselessness when it comes to matters of the fairer sex.
Anyone familiar with Hynes’s former band Test Icicles would’ve found his voice has more depth than expected, especially on recent single Galaxy Of The Lost which brought to mind the sweet melodies of a band of his teenage years, Weezer.
McGuinness reappeared during the set to perform backing vocals on a superb cover version of The Strokes‘ My Heart In A Cage. Hynes has been playing his version for some time now, taking an underrated masterpiece to a new level. A wonderful version of forthcoming single Midnight Surprise, his very own Bohemian Rhapsody, was also thrown in, complete with an impressively effortless move between guitar and piano.
Lightspeed Champion embraces emo genre in some form – is emo-folk a recognised pigeonhole? But ultimately he likes a good pop song, as demonstrated by his version of Weezer‘s Buddy Holly as an encore. On this basis, his album is going to be worth keeping an eye out for. And in fairness to him he did apologise to us for his outfit.