LIVE REVIEW: Badly Drawn Boy @ Swedish American Hall 12/14/10
There was nothing bad about Badly Drawn Boy’s show at the Swedish American Hall Tuesday night. Even the rain cleared making the pre-show gathering, and post show lingering a much more pleasant experience. Damon Gough, the man behind Badly Drawn Boy, played a stripped down, mostly acoustic, and mostly solo show for a sold out crowd in San Francisco.
The Swedish American Hall was the absolute perfect setting for this show. It’s a great place to put on an intimate show without sacrificing a big sound. Gough’s voice reverberated off the hardwood floor and high ceiling as the crowd sat attentively in their school auditorium-style folding chairs. It almost gives the sense of a school music recital.
Justin Jones opened the show with a dose of appropriately Badly Drawn Boy-inspired singer/songwriter tunes. Jones is very similar to Gough not only in his music, but also stage persona. Jones interacted with the crowd between each song and this wasn’t just arbitrary banter, the dude is funny, which helped him quickly win over the crowd. When not joking with the audience, Jones belted out heartfelt songs with a not-so-unique, but none the less captivating, and gravely voice. His music could easily be featured in an overly dramatic ending of a Grey’s Anatomy episode. His songs are powerful and emotional, yet warm and inviting. He even got the crowd to participate in one of his songs with synchronized foot stomps, which is very hard to do as the single opening act for a bigger name.
When Gough took the stage with nothing but an acoustic guitar in hand, it was obvious that this was going to be a special performance. Wearing his signature knit beanie, Gough joked with the crowd before launching into his first song. When seeing Badly Drawn Boy, each song comes with a story. Sometimes the stories pertain to the preceding song and sometimes they are the random thoughts constantly running through the singer-songwriters head that spill out into the microphone. With many musicians, this kind of long-winded banter can be tedious, leading to shouts of “c’mon play a song” or other such heckling. However, with Badly Drawn Boy, the rambling adds an intimacy to the show that the audience eats up because, let’s face it, he’s charming. Gough is funny, witty, and interesting, and his audience interaction has become a much anticipated part of his show. He’s a true performer, breaking down the wall between the audience and the music so it becomes more like watching a friend on stage than a rockstar.
Gough stuck mostly to acoustic guitar, trading out for an electric, and inviting other band members on stage only a few times. His set list was comprised of fan favorites and hits with an obligatory block of new songs from his most recent album, which he seemed to speed through in order to get back to his classics even though the audience responded well to his new songs. Badly Drawn Boy definitely has a devoted crowd that not only look forward to their favorite old songs, but also look forward to hearing new songs, and seeing the music progress. He certainly didn’t play hide and go seek with his fan favorites as most musicians would do with a new album hot off the press.
After more than an hour and a half of music, Gough sat down at the piano, which immediately got a roar from the crowd, for a few old favorites including “Magic In The Air,” and a cover of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” He then put down his guitar, and closed out the show with a sing along of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” which played on his iPhone.
With the San Francisco show being the third to last in Badly Drawn Boy’s tour, Gough seemed tired and even talked about missing his family and being ready to get home, but that didn’t stop him from delivering a stellar performance and the crowd definitely made it worth it, showing him lots of love before shuffling back out into the cold.