At a recent show in Brighton, Matt Stevens was heckled by an inebriate in the audience who accused him of “cheating”.
Venue: The Borderline
Live reviews with Tim Bowness and Umphrey's McGee
To give the drunk his due, Stevens’ trick is a fiendishly clever one, as layers and more layers are built up via pedals and loops. And it is difficult to connect the clattering orchestral chaos of the music to the sight of one man battling an acoustic guitar, face full of determination and coated in sweat, pausing only to nudge his glasses back into position. It’s a truly compelling act.
Nosound are next, although only two of the band, singer Giancarlo Erra and guitarist Paolo Vigliarolo, have made the long journey from Rome. “We’re the best part,” says Erra, reassuringly, and so it turns out, for Nosound sound lovely. It’s a short but graceful set, with the burbling synths of _Fading Silently _retaining the epic, yearning sweep of the full band version, and a sumptuous debut live outing for __You Said ‘I Am…’_ from 2009’s_ Lightdark_ album.
Tim Bowness chooses to combine songs from his Abandoned Dancehall Dreams album with tracks from the Henry Fool and No-Man projects, and it almost works perfectly. First problem? The audience is clearly divided between those who don’t know the new record – who burst into applause during the fake ending in the middle of a devastating Smiler at 50 – and those who do, who remain smugly, disapprovingly silent. Second, ADD is such a genuinely beautiful collection that the other tracks can’t help but jar when placed next to them.
The lolloping roll of The Warm-Up Man Forever opens the set, then it’s straight into No-Man’s crunching Time Travel In Texas, which leads back to Smiler…, before lurching off towards Henry Fool’s Judy On The Brink. This approach gives the evening something of a creaky foundation, but the band are made of sturdy stuff and paper over the cracks with casual finesse.
Bowness himself is an odd frontman, with a brooding, thin-lipped intensity that’s completely at odds with the prettiness of his voice and his own apparent sensitivity – at one point he refers to a 1996 NME review for No-Man’s Housewives Hooked On Heroin that still clearly rankles.
The encore starts with Henry Fool’s Poppy Q. Bowness says it’s a song he “wrote but can’t play”, so he stands by the side of the stage admiring proceedings, much like the rest of us. Then it’s back to the new album for Songs Of Distant Summers, another lush and lovely moment that sounds like it’s part of something much more grandiose, and suffers a little for not being handled as such. Roll on the solo album shows. Please. Fraser Lewry