On every Mercury Prize shortlist, the singer-songwriter usually looks as tokenistic as the unknown jazzer, representing an important part of Britain’s musical make-up without being inventive enough to take home the cheque. Among this year’s dozen, Nick Mulvey is different, a former ethnomusicology student and hang player with jazz band Portico Quartet (also Mercury nominees) who brings global influences to his intricate, softly spoken acoustic music.
There was a hang on stage, but it was barely used. Guitar filled the room. If he’s unlikely to take home the Mercury this month, he’s probably the most accessible of the bunch, as shown by the sold out sign on this major venue and the lovesick crowd within.
Juramidam and First Mind, quietly beautiful on record, acquired teeth in concert as his versatile band worked the grooves into something bolder. He tickled his strings with hypnotic motion, sneaked in a cheeky Drake cover and looked like a vital addition to a genre that rarely innovates.