“This is the director’s cut of the album,” deadpans Damon Gough after adding a few extra bars to ‘Bewilderbeast’. “No wonder I cut that out: it’s s***.”
The Bolton singer-songwriter, who trades as Badly Drawn Boy, may have lost none of his humour but on this fifteenth anniversary tour of debut album The Hour Of Bewilderbeast there is a marked change in attitude.
When he unexpectedly saw off Coldplay to win the 2000 Mercury Music Prize his subsequent tour was marred by unpredictable behaviour and rambling three hour sets. His struggle with fame and falling sales for his follow-up releases left him somewhat ambivalent about Bewilderbeast.
The first surprise of the night is therefore how together he and his four-piece backing band are during a set that serves to meet the nostalgia market, give him the opportunity to reconnect with his audience, and reenergize his career by returning to his early material.
The second surprise is how many of these songs are recognisable from the mainstream, whether via film soundtracks (‘About A Boy’) or Comet adverts (‘All Possibilities’).
There’s also an unexpected lack of nostalgia. While contemporary albums such as Richard Ashcroft’s Alone With Everybody and Leftfield’s Rhythm And Stealth are very much fixed in the mind as millennial these tracks please with their lo-fi ambition and breadth of genres. Spread over one set dedicated to Bewilderbeast and one to later material, he breezes through folk-pop, indie rock, jazz-lite and childlike psychedelia.
It’s with his closing number, however, that he really sets out his stock. A solo version of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’ (“the song that changed my life”), it reveals his love of stadium rock and grand ambition, both of which he’s realised on a homespun scale throughout his career.
Gig date: July 30