There was an element of guilt amid the joy at seeing Keaton Henson making a rare appearance on a London stage. As with Brian Wilson, who also performed in this theatre recently and has far more visible mental health issues, audience members may worry about their own role in putting him through the grind of performing.
“This has been a really tricky few years, trying to do this,” he said, taking deep breaths between songs, mopping his brow and neck. He played guitar at the front but mostly played piano with his back to the audience. Five classical string players occupied the other side of the stage, his cellist collaborator Ren Ford providing musical warmth and physical reassurance.
When the lights were turned on his fans, Henson hid his face, but only made the cheers louder. “The sooner you stop applauding, the sooner I go home,” he half-joked.
He may have glimpsed a rapturous standing ovation. His tribute to Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah, was profoundly moving, as were original compositions such as No Witnesses and Alright. His wavering, delicate voice required leaning forward to catch his lovesick, self-flagellating lyrics.
Turned inwards both in his words and his hunched, nervous figure, he could have prompted more pity than admiration, but there were glimmers of light. They were worth hanging on to, for sadly it doesn’t sound as though he’ll be back soon.