Badly Drawn Boy
Live at the Troubador, West Hollywood
The sugar-coatless-ly charming, 'Born in the UK' from Badly Drawn Boy's new album of the same name, is deliciously evocative of all that is great about Britains, and crap about Britain. As with all thought provoking pop songs, that might still be meaningless if you didn't find yourself humming it when it was done. "And then you saw the Union Jack and it means nothing..." isn't even the greatest line following spot on insights and name checks of Sid Vicious, the Iron Lady and Jilted John, all over a Tommy Gun drum driven rush. And so, at the Troubadour, Badly Drawn Boy seemingly set the table, opening the show with not one but two versions of Born in the UK. A sweet and low version breaking into the more familiar rocking one.>
Almost immediately after that things got a little unhinged. Damon Gough had warned us at the outset that he wasn't feeling "great about himself and his music." And soon, he was feeling a whole lot worse. The onstage sound was, "The worst ever," he muttered, between kicking some chrome item clear into the wings of the stage and spitting a mouthful of liquid over his piano and a stomach full of bile in the direction of the sound mixers. Such was his disenchantment with the proceedings he threatened not to show up for the second sold out show the following night. Gone was the seemingly relaxed star we'd seen earlier in the VIP quarters.
Everything sounded great from where I was standing. The rage contributed a new resonance to the timeworn and the new alike. The result made every song an incredible journey. It seemed like a great internal battle was being played out a few feet in front of us and I was never sure whether he would finish any particular song - let alone the entire set.
He appealed to audience for support. And got it, although some seemed either bemused or a little bit traumatized by his anger. The band looked a little apprehensive at times too, deer in the headlight-like, except for pianist Steve, probably nothing threatens him, except his own atherosclerotic plaque.
It's a relief at least that it's not just me that has problems with the equipment they rely on to do their job. (Thanks Apple for the umpteenth cruddy lap top I've gotten from you guys).
Later in the show, he took to the piano but fared just as badly, it too sounded awful to him. He needed a towel to clean it. That was pretty funny. But he was having such a bad day by now that it was easy to see him accidentally electrocuting himself when he poured water onto the towel and ran it over the keys.
By the end, when he left the stage, it looked like he was going to assault the sound guys, it really did. Or something like that. He seemed to storm up the stairs away from the stage.
After an eternity, Badly Drawn Boy came back. Damon Gough was still despairing at the aural shortcomings of his surroundings... and then they played something like a 40 minute encore. He relaxed a whole lot at the piano and with joyful charm, his delightfully singular songs came through once more, he was so personable again, you'd want him as a house guest, although you'd ask him to smoke outside.
Finally, dedicating songs to all the family and friends and everyone he could remember in the audience, and many he could not, and of course, to Bruce Springsteen, Damon Gough seemed to ultimately fulfill the message of his own songs so succinctly, as he says in Born in the UK, Somehow, you find your own way.