The homecoming Boy has come a long way
Badly Drawn Boy
THE COMEDY STORE, MANCHESTER
SUNDAY MARCH 9, 2003
The first time Uncut saw Damon Gough, he was an unknown artist opening for a stage-shy Smog in an eccentric Manchester pub. Since then, he’s collaborated with Charlotte Gainsbourg, won the Mercury Music Prize, scored the soundtrack for a Nick Hornby adaptation, released three albums and established himself as a sensitive and enigmatic songwriter capable of writing brilliant and beguiling pop songs. Lest we forget, he’s also become a legendary live performer, known to baffle, bemuse, frustrate and hypnotise his audiences with long sets and peculiar onstage banter. As a result, nobody’s quite sure what to expect from tonight’s seated solo set?billed as his only UK show this year.
Visibly emotional, Gough shuffles onto the tiny stage an hour before midnight, observes the 500 diehard fans in the audience, friends and family packed into the intimate venue, and immediately confesses he’s feeling “incredibly humble and nervous”. He lights a cigarette, takes a swing of beer and thanks label mates Aidan Smith and Jane Weaver for their captivating sets before launching into an exhilarating version of Bewilderbeast opener “The Shining”. It’s followed closely by passionate renditions of “The Golden Days” and “Once Around The Block”, which are stripped down to their basic melodies as he switches between acoustic guitar and grand piano.
A self-confessed Springsteen obsessive, he then dedicates a version of the raw, heartfelt cover of “Thunder Road”?originally recorded for last month’s Uncut tribute CD?to his mum, a trembling smile on his face. It’s one of many endearing moments and as he sings “It’s a town full of losers and I’m pulling out of here to win”, you can almost hear his heart pounding with pride and fear.
The rest of the two-and-a-half-hour set comprises early rarities (“Rollercoaster”, “Road Movie”, “I Love You All”), live favourites (“40 Days, 40 Fights”, “All Possibilities”, “Something To Talk About”, “Donna And Blitzen”) and selected tracks from his critically acclaimed debut (“Pissing In The Wind”, “Rockslide”, “Disillusion”).
Some are kept deceptively simple pop songs with killer hooks, others are completely reinvented, with new arrangements and improvised lyrics. Intriguingly, he only plays a handful of songs from his Uncut album of the month, Have You Fed The Fish?, preferring to entertain us with sketches of works-in-progress and poignant covers of “Let The Sun Shine In” and The Smiths’ “Oscillate Wildly”, the latter dedicated to Andy Rourke, a full time member of his backing band since early 2002.
Treated to a well-deserved, standing ovation, Gough returns for an encore that includes life-affirming renditions of “How?” and “Magic In The Air”. A good friend of the late Clash singer, he tells an hilarious story about meeting the pioneers of punk (“Joe Strummer was a gentleman, John Lydon was a fucking knobhead”) before closing the set with a triumphant “I Was Wrong, You Were Right”?changing the chorus to “And I remember doing nothing the night Joe Strummer died.” The response is instant and overwhelming. You’ve come a long way, baby.