Badly Drawn Boy
Pantages Theater, Minneapolis
Badly Drawn Boy (aka Damon Gough) might be laughable were he not so unrelentingly earnest. I mean, present lyrics such as these –Sometimes you’ve got to rewind to go forward/ There’s some good times around the corner/ But have you fed the fish today? – to someone unfamiliar with the artist and I think it’s fair to expect a snicker, if not a guffaw.
But Gough shows such unflinching conviction in his music you can’t help but take him seriously.
That conviction served him well in his Minneapolis appearance.
Gough asked for the audience’s indulgence as he and his band – including violinist, cellist and flutist – proceeded track-by-track, through his latest release, One Plus One Is One. That’s a lot to ask of all but the most dedicated fans. Gough managed to pull it off for a couple of reasons: One, he was unfailingly polite, at several points noting the imposition he was placing on the crowd, and explaining it as a product of his pride in the work.
The second reason the crowd didn’t rebel: the songs were good. One Plus One Is One matches Gough’s previous efforts for sheer operatic scope rooted in solid pop sense. At one point, Gough described his reverence for Bruce Springsteen, and while I had never made the connection before, the influence of Born to Run on Gough’s style is obvious. But where Springsteen’s cinematic stories echo the style of Sergio Leone – epic tales in realistic settings – Gough owes more to French surrealism. Which is to say, as noted above, his vision can often be downright weird.
As good as the new material was, the second set featuring material from the About A Boy soundtrack and Have You Fed the Fish? was more satisfying, if only for the familiarity of the tunes.
Maybe one of these days Gough will blink, his intensity dropping just enough that the absurdist will only look absurd. Until he does, I’m willing to be among those who indulge him.