There are just some people whose talents are unmistakable. Whether it’s in sports, art or whatever, you watch that person and you immediately get that there's an innate ability that has to be utilitzed. I firmly believe that Badly Drawn Boy (aka Damon Gough) has a natural talent to create fucking great melodies.
As I watched him tonight at Webster Hall in the East Village, I rediscovered what drew me to his music in the first place. There’s nothing pretentious about him or his music. He does it because there’s something within him that comes out naturally.
The music may not be avant garde but it’s classic and melodic that will always make it accessible. (I’m picturing a scene in The Sopranos where a music engineer is berating an up-and-coming band, "Where are the fucking choruses?!")
It reminds me of listening to Murray Lightburn of the Dears, who sounds as if he’s singing just to hear how awesome his vibrato is. Gough seems so laid back about his performance, yet without coming across apathetic or lax. I hear the scraggly voice and see his everyday outfit and can easily picture him stumbling out of a bus station to perform on the sidewalk.
Gough also strikes me as the kind of guy who isn’t comfortable with the public exposure of a popular musician. Still, he appears to be able to take it in stride and not lashing out like Kurt Cobain or being paralyzed with terror like Nick Drake. Perhaps Gough’s had enough years to learn how to deal with it.
His ability to connect with the audience was evident throughout the night, being quite talkative at times. He would quip about how great it is to be able to perform in New York or make the audience laugh by introducing a song that he wrote "that turned into a b-side because it was absolute shit".
There were a few breakdowns in the concert wherein he would call off the other players saying "that was shit" and immediately moving on to another song. None of the incidents were particularly obstrusive, certainly not in the specatular fashion of Cat Power’s live meltdowns, but it was an insight into his perfectionist/artistic nature.
I have to admit that I’ve always given Badly Drawn Boy the short end of the stick. While always enjoying his music, I’ve never given it the proper adulation. I met each album release with less enthusiasm, only to discover its brilliance months to years later. I’ve doubted whether or not his Mercury prize winning effort was a fluke, and was skeptical that he could pull of an entire soundtrack to a film, only to be proven wrong every time.
Even this concert was attended on a whim rather than true excitement. Maybe that’s the curse of being consistently excellent: no one ever really notices because they learn to just expect it from you. But maybe that’s exactly how Gough likes it. He has been able to skim that fine line of not being mainstream, while being popular enough to allow him to go on doing what he wants.
And judging from tonight, Badly Drawn Boy can draw a sizeable enthusiastic crowd. It shows that great music will always find an audience, even if it’s overshadowed by the latest trend.
While you may not win any points with your snobby hipster friends, a night out with Badly Drawn Boy is pretty fucking enjoyable. And I’m fully back on the bandwagon.