sat 21/09/2019

Nick Mulvey, Komedia, Brighton | reviews, news & interviews

Nick Mulvey, Komedia, Brighton

Nick Mulvey, Komedia, Brighton

One of Britain's most potent, original singer-songerwiters sparks bright

Nick Mulvey's dream still fits the plan

The humming is rising. Only three songs in and already a large section of the crowd is swaying, tranced out, from side to side, like southern Baptists, swept along by an extended version of “Meet Me There” from Nick Mulvey’s 2014 Mercury Music Prize-nominated debut album First Mind. The Komedia’s basement is an odd venue. It has a very low ceiling and takes exact ratios of performance energy, visual impact and audience goodwill to make it work. Whatever it takes, Nick Mulvey has it from the off. He doesn’t say much but captivates a cheerful, chatty and, admittedly, distinctly partisan crowd.

His band are spread thin across the long stage; keyboards to the left, then a female percussionist, Mulvey’s partner Isadora Tanner, who will later play mandolin and provide backing vocals; the bassist, sometimes double, sometimes electric, is Milo Fitzpatrick from Mulvey’s old band, the Portico Quartet, and the drums are on the far right. Mulvey, of course, is front-centre, clad in a plain brown tee shirt, his boyish, dark good looks set off with a wry smile and very, very occasional asides to the capacity crowd. He emanates his confidence almost completely through music.

He is an extraordinary talent, one whose music is destined to reach into many hearts for decades to come

The heartfelt male singer-songwriter thing has been done to death over the last decade, from David Gray to Ed Sheeran, so it’s startling that Mulvey has reinvented it in such an engaging manner. His lyrics are enigmatic, emotive picture stories, far from opaque fluff, a touch of Neil Young about them, delivered within music that veers into the trippy but in a very organized way. The song “Ailsa Craig”, with its waterside imagery and line about “a tattoo of a house on the inside of her wrist”, rides along on a backing that combines Pink Floyd-ish spaceyness with guitar patterns that impeccably and originally combine Latin jazz tics with mantric modern classicism. Such a description makes it sound very pretentious but it isn’t, it’s just original, involving and warm.

That’s the key to Mulvey’s music: its construction may be studied, with an icing of Brian Eno-style or post-club electronic ambience, but the result is euphoric and beautiful. There’s an innate optimism to it, as when he does a solo spot for two songs, including “The Trellis” which has an outstanding plucked guitar solo at the end, paradoxically complex yet simple.

He breaks a string at one point and raises an eyebrow at his predicament, ploughing on like a trooper, then genially deals with two drunk teenagers in the crowd who keep shouting that they love him – “Cheers, Dad,” he reposts – but the show is really based on the mood he builds with his songs, from meditative opener “April” to the festival-slaying, forlorn, dreamy “I Don’t Want To Go Home”. He ends with his poppiest, catchiest number, the nursery rhyme irresistible “Cucurucu”, followed by the double whammy encore of “Fever to the Form”, which sets the audience hum-along to Tibetan Buddhist temple levels, and the closing jam on another festival-friendly favourite, the musically longing, hazily utopian “Nitrous”. He leaves amidst roars, downplaying his own role in it via body language, letting his band revel. He is an extraordinary talent, one whose music is destined to reach into many hearts for decades to come.

Overleaf: watch Nick Mulvey play "Fever to the Form" live on Later... with Jools Holland

The construction of Mulvey's music may be studied but the result is euphoric and beautiful

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.