‘It’s my daughters 10th birthday today. She’s the most beautiful person in the world. Are there any daughters in here tonight? Your dad thinks exactly the same about you. Even if you’re minging.’
Once more, Badly Drawn Boy arrives in New York to baffle the audience with Mancunian wit. Last night I caught the second of two shows at LPR. He was on fine form.
‘I remember when my daughter was born and I held her in my arms.’
‘She turned to me, and said “Dad, you’re one cool motherfucker”. I said “Watch your language”.’
Yes, A Badly Drawn Boy concert is part cabaret, and for his final song (a cover of ‘Thunder Road’), borderline karaoke. It’s pure entertainment, if you get his sense of humour.
Opening with songs about death, friends disappearing, and suicide, it’s not what you’d immediately put down as a top Saturday night out. But, this is Badly Drawn Boy. He’s bloody good. Songs which tug at the heartstrings, such as ‘A Minor Incident’ from ‘About A Boy’, and ‘I’ll Carry On’ from ‘Is There Nothing We Could Do?’ have the audience completely transfixed. It’s all about his voice, and his acoustic guitar. The hush descending over the audience transports the room to another place. The power of his singing, and his ability to draw people into the depths of his feelings are truly astonishing.
And then, just as he has the audience in a place where they collectively feel he can do no wrong, he comes out with a line like:
‘It’s a good job I’m good’
‘Oh, it’s just Mancunian humour’
Seriously, this hits the nail bang on the head. It’s not just that they don’t get his humour, it’s that he pushes it to the limits. Near the start of his set, he plays the opening bars to five or six of his audience-pleasing tunes, quickly moving form one to the next, and then leans into the mic to say ‘right, I just wanted to get them out of the way’. Of course he doesn’t. He loves this. He’s in his element. He wants to put on a great show. He wants to entertain. He loves New York. On talking about missing his daughter’s birthday, he says that:
‘If I’m not with her, I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than New York. Imagine if I was in Shitsville, Arizona. I’d be suicidal.’
He does love it. When he receives a heckle, he gets properly spiky for a few minutes, as he wants to be loved. He wants the audience to get it. On his terms. The spikiness dies down when Andy Rourke joins him on stage, and they work their way through a stripped down, and brilliant version of ‘I Wanna Be Adored’. I am not sure that the vast majority of the audience would even know The Stone Roses, but the title of the song seems to be entirely appropriate for Badly Drawn Boy.
Let me draw a contrast to Badly Drawn Boy. On Friday night I went to see The Budos Band at the Bowery Ballroom. For the uninitiated, the Bowery Ballroom is possibly the best venue in the city. It’s small, with a wonderful sound system, and it just feels special. Every time. The Budos Band hail from Staten Island, and lay down some serious afro-beat. Properly authentic stuff – the kind of music that is hard to stay still to. They’re channelling Fela to full effect, and they do a bloody good job of it. Their show on Friday saw them hit all the right notes in terms of getting the crowd dancing. They are a wonderful band, with a clear respect for the music they’re playing. The place was packed. At first. The crowd visibly thinned out towards the end of the set. It was staggering. I can only blame one thing – and this is the point of my Badly Drawn Boy comparison. The interaction between the Budos Band and the audience consisted of the band members basically being a bit arrogant, and shouting ‘BOOOO-DOWWWSE’ at the crowd. They loved themselves – or that’s how it came across. It’s not that it ruined the show – it was great. It’s just that it was unnecessary. I’ve seen them before, and there was none of this. They’re just a great band, playing music which deserves far wider recognition. The video embedded below captures them on fine form. Check it out.
Now, maybe it’s just the fact that I too am a bit of a northern miserablist, but the charm of Badly Drawn Boy’s interaction is the aforementioned self-deprecation. He’s clearly going to wind people up, but he’s also just having a laugh. When members of The Budos Band are showboating on stage, and basically shouting for the audience to love them, I find that a hard one to swallow. Another choice Badly Drawn Boy line:
‘I’ve got the confidence to go on stages around the world and talk bullshit’
Yes, you do Damon. But, that’s not what you’re doing. You’re going on stages around the world, and sharing some of the most beautifully crafted songs from the last ten years. You’re baring your soul, and wanting it to be right in doing so. You’re also talking a bit of bullshit while you’re at it. We all do. Especially in the north. Normally in the pub. With a pint, surrounded by your mates.
So, the Badly Drawn Boy live experience is simply summed up as this: a night down the pub with your mates, it’s just that one of them is the best singer/songwriter from the last ten years. What’s not to love?