Badly Drawn Boy @ Queen's Theatre, London (6th November 1999)

Damon Gough has been accused of not trying, of being half-arsed, or being a bit of shyster. It is not so, at least now. Clearly, to anyone who watches him put on this show, he's trying very hard. If not, there's some serious luck-riding going on and the guy has no fear of ridicule. The entire evening is geared to entertainment, with a comedy duo providing distraction twixt the support and the main attraction. It fits the evening well and prepares us for the deadpan and mildly vulnerable persona presented by Mr Gough. He begins the set by knocking out several songs solo, demonstrating not inconsiderable abilities to (a) write simple but poetic enough pop songs and (b) project some happily non-cheesy feeling. What makes this segment truly work are his wisecracks, daft jokes and asides about nerves, the presence of his family and the music industry. He is then joined by the opening band, to provide the full backing some of his compositions require. It remains fun, but there are enough thoughtful touches to avoid the danger of becoming a bad joke. Some minimalist but intriguing backdrops play on the screen behind the assembled band, and we see neon messages light in stages above the band. Throughout he's in control of the crowd, engaging in banter and drawing the whole place further in. The guy is funny, he can write songs, and he's willing to stick his neck out a little bit in an attempt to entertain. Whether or not his records can attain the quality to match his intent is yet in the balance, but his efforts to provide something different in an oft-stale live environment deserve some serious applause. (Drew)
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