Badly Drawn Boy @ Troubadour, 10/18/06
With musicians that record under an assumed name, you often see in print this “a.k.a.” when identifying them in print. e.g. “Badly Drawn Boy a.k.a. Damon Gough.” But the truth is, we don’t also know Badly Drawn Boy as Damon Gough. “Badly Drawn Boy” may well be some invented character, the name taken from a comic strip. But despite a stage name and that signature costume of wool beanie and beard, we know this guy’s tunes. And that’s a good thing– the only thing that matters really–because his songs are good, several of them with a timeless classic feel to them.
He starts out on electric Fender with a full band (a tight, jazzy 4-piece unit), moves on to acoustic solo, and then gets behind the keys for some numbers. One English punter is trying to heckle him right away but eventually gives up and submits to the music. There is a kid in a wool beanie right down front that apparently hopes to get his hero’s attention by imitating his taste in headwear. He mines a lot of feeling out of his relatively narrow singing range. Over the set, he modulates styles easily from finger picking 60’s folkie to 70’s AOR to 80’s Springsteen. It’s a wide spectrum of stuff, but you’d maybe like to see them take the lows lower and the highs higher, because this band can play. Puffing Marlboro Lights and sipping from a plastic bar cup as he plays for you, he reminds you he’s basically he’s just the guy down the local pub that has all these great songs. He is chatty and the undersized room crowd clearly loves him, eating up his banter. When BDB puts the guitar down and takes the mic off the stand, he goes into a hammy front man mode that is alternately endearingly awkward or annoyingly conceited, depending on your take. I’d prefer he stay behind an instrument, but I don’t hold it against him. He knows he’s no Jagger up there.
It is a little worrying that he introduced his new single as the best song he’s written, because, really it’s only one of the more structurally complex songs he’s got and of course that doesn’t necessarily make a song good. But over the course of two hours, one is reminded of just how many good simple songs does have in his bag, as he rattles off about two dozen in a row, not a serious dud among them. After nearly a decade at this, he seems to have moved well beyond the cobbled-together collage feel of his debut record, which won the Mercury Prize in 2000 (over Coldplay, no less), and forged into refined, polished pop productions. Depending on your perspective and taste, this might be a good or bad thing, but you have to respect the man’s craft, which is right up there among the best of today’s songwriters.
Photos by Audree
Words by V.