Album sales may be a fraction of what they were, but the track-by-track album celebration gig is in rude health. Damon Gough couldn’t wait 20 years to celebrate the release of his Mercury-winning debut as Badly Drawn Boy. Instead the woolly hat aficionado marked the 15th anniversary of The Hour of Bewilderbeast, playing it in full with a tight new band that reined in the unreliability of his concerts the first time around.
Beautiful oddities such as Body Rap and Fall in a River reminded the sold-out crowd that at one point the Manchester musician could have been our Beck: eclectic and eccentric but, as The Shining proved, capable of a heartbreaking ballad at any moment. As he said himself, he’s been quiet for the past few years. Reports of angry gigs and arguments with audience members haven’t helped his stock but he was on best behaviour this evening.
The choice of an all-seater arts centre venue for the endeavour suggested a desire for his work to be taken more seriously. Bewilderbeast is a special collection that arrived during a dull time for British music, released just as Coldplay began their bland ascent with Parachutes. Littered with sketches, sudden turns and dead ends, it’s as unpredictable as its creator. Gough may be misguided in his belief that this nostalgic evening will stimulate interest in his forthcoming material, but he has certainly earned a positive reappraisal of his past.