Thursday 24 May 2018

LIVE: Nick Mulvey at Royal Albert Hall (22/5/18)

It's no secret that I adore (and in a way, idolise) the work of the wonderful folk at Communion Music (the record label, promoter and publisher), and seeing their Nick Mulvey headline show at the rather huge Royal Albert Hall in London earlier this week was a total joy. Not least because back in 2014 his show at O2 Academy Oxford (with my fave Sivu in support) was both my first Communion gig and the first gig I ever went to by myself - the start of something brilliant!

I've seen Nick play a couple of times since then at Bushstock Festival (he headlined gloriously last year) but this was by far the biggest and most ambitious show so far, the closing evening of his UK tour promoting second record Wake Up Now. After a set from TT (AKA Warpaint's guitarist Theresa Wayman) warmed up the crowd rather brilliantly, Nick took to the stage alone, casually strolling out and surveying the crowd to rounds of raucous applause. There was an almost palpable and mutual level of respect between himself and the audience, as applause turned to silence (from, I can only assume, sheer amazement) as he began to play We Are Never Apart

Gazing out at the crowd a few songs in and asking "Shall we have a good night?" before declaring that "this is the coolest thing" it was clear that Nick was pretty astounded by the evening, but he oozed confidence and seemed completely at home on the stage. Mirroring this, his tunes felt like they belonged in such a venue. Last week, he shared part of a short film online where he talked about the pressure that a London gig could bring and feeling liberated from it, and in the same vein, from the idea of making music for anybody else, concluding that "there is a kind of uncertain but definitely satisfying future out there if you just do what you wanna do in the way you wanna do it" - something that I think a lot of us could take something from.

The performance ventured through songs old and new and while the quieter tunes, encouraging a level of silent wonderment from the audience, were great, it was the powerful sing-alongs that became highlights for me. Cucurucu was given a repeated first verse and closing tune Mountain To Move had everybody up on their feet but the stand out for me was perhaps Nick's biggest tune Fever To The Form, which had everybody holding their phone torches aloft and made for a bit of a tearjerker. As the first few notes rang around the venue, a slight murmur of applause erupted from the more seasoned fans, to which Nick reacted "I love this song" before describing his first time playing the tune in his old house in Clapton, and telling us that "I really fucking cried my eyes out you know." Glad to know I'm not the only one!

A refreshing part of the show was to note differences from the studio recordings... very often you go to a concert only for the band to perfectly replicate their album live, which isn't necessarily a bad thing if you enjoy the recorded music, but changing it up is always welcome and helps to keep the live experience worthwhile. This difference was particularly obvious in the opening of Remembering, a track where the studio version features some fairly prominent female vocals. For this tour, Nick's set up was notably simple for such large venues with just himself, Dan See on drums and Nick Pini on bass and keys, but the band managed to fill the space beautifully, with Nick's soulful vocals carrying around the room. It would've been nice to have some female vocals though - but that's about as far as I can go with criticising the show, because in every other aspect it was a complete joy to witness. 

During the show, Nick informed us that "this is a folk gig by the way" as if checking that we were all aware of exactly what we'd signed up for, before covering Bob Dylan's I Was Young When I Left Home. While some covers can be a little throwaway, it was clear that the track meant something to him, and he dedicated it to friends at the show who he hadn't seen enough while busy touring over the past few years. The show itself was huge but felt intimate with Nick talking of his friends, dedicating the beautiful tune Unconditional to his wife Isadora and with him speaking of his spiritual beliefs and of the difficult experiences his family have faced over the last year. All of this seemed to feed into genuine appreciation and gratitude towards each and every one of the audience as he gazed around the room at the end of the show, as well as to his band and crew, and he was paid back in powerful rounds of applause. I'd say that this wasn't a show that Nick and his team, or the audience, will be forgetting in a while.

If you missed it - check out Nick's new Dancing For The Answers EP here

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