Badly Drawn Boy ends tour with dreary eyes, cigarettes and rye -- by Dwain Lucktung, April 2007
"I need a break," he says as he stops playing piano and lights up a cigarette. "You've seen me; I've been up here for fucking two hours."
It was understandable that Damon Gough of Badly Drawn Boy was tired, as his band got stuck on the stateside border for four hours earlier in the day. Nevertheless, the fading enthusiasm just summed up what was little more than a mediocre live show.
No more than 500 people packed out Vancouver's Richard's on Richards on March 27 as BDB took to the stage. Glasses were raised up high as Gough said: "This is the only Canadian show that we're doing, and the last show of our endless world tour," but it's hard to say that they finished strong.
At 10:40 PM, dreary eyes in the dark room needed a wake-up call. Legs on the balconies of the small venue were shaking in fatigue. The bored, yet patient crowd deserved something more after nearly two hours worth of severely forgettable supporting acts.
All cheered in appreciation and anticipation as Gough's trademark beenie hat emerged from the darkness. On walked the scruffy, unshaven 37-year-old, set to breathe some life into the room with tracks from the band's latest album, Born in the UK.
It started well. BDB opened the show with "Time of Times," followed by "Journey From A to B," both feel-good tunes that got the crowd swaying and bopping for really the first time in the night. Unfortunately, this was as exciting as it got for a while.
Only three people were really dancing—two punky-looking druggies and a middle-aged woman in an open-back blouse—by the time BDB got to "Nothing's Gonna Change Your Mind." Ironic, considering the song's hook: "Lets dance to the beat of the drums."
It was definitely not explosive, fist-pumping music, but then again, Badly Drawn Boy never was that kind of band. Their chilled-out stoner anthem sound is led by a front man who rarely changes his position on stage, except to switch from piano to guitar.
Nonetheless, BDB's fans showed nothing but love for the few highlights on the night, which included a song request for "I Need A Sign," an old favourite that Gough delivered as a sentiment to his loyal fans despite not having played it for 10 years.
Gough also gained some cheap laughs with the satirical "I'm the President…Don't Ask Me," a song where he takes the utter piss out of Big Brother, Friends and George Bush, among others. It wasn't the funniest song, though Gough did admit the song was just an array of "random fuss."
My personal highlight of the night: Getting my water spiked by some prick that was probably hoping my drink belonged to an already drugged-up girl. At the very least, it made things a little more interesting, making the entire spectacle an even bigger tiresome blur than it already was.
Obviously it won't be the best show of 2007, and it simply can't compare to the last BDB live performance I saw at UK's V Festival a couple years back, where the former Mercury Prize winners were hailed by more than 20,000 indie rockers.
However, one must show respect as Gough did begin the show by announcing: "My grandfather's funeral was this morning…but we're still going to put on a good show for you." Put that together with the stateside border fuck-up, and Gough can be forgiven for his subdued display and forgetting of words throughout the night.
Under such circumstances one could say it was a gutsy, brave and as ever terribly honest performance by Gough and his band.
Besides, when the clock struck midnight, the somewhat stoned crowd was treated to some rare Gough movement, as he walked across the bar near the stage half way through performing a song. For a thrilling 90 seconds, he shook hands with the fans, asked the bartender for a rye and coke, then threw his towel into the crowd.