Badly Drawn Boy was one of the big names performing at this year’s Galway Arts Festival. Open went along to catch the woolly hat-wearing performer in the unlikely setting of the Radisson Blu Hotel’s Live Lounge.
A hotel bar does not seem like the most appealing of venues to watch a singer/songwriter perform, and we have to admit we had some serious questions over why Damon Gough might have agreed to play in such a seemingly corporate environment (especially given that he is known to have the odd rant at record industry execs).
Expecting a loungey sort of affair (a grand piano, people sipping martinis, muzak in the background) we soon discovered that the Radisson Live Lounge, located in the basement of the hotel, is in fact a state of the art music venue with a capacity for 1,100 people. It is also one of the main venues participating in the Galway Arts Festival, hosting gigs by Divine Comedy, Teenage Fanclub and The Human League amongst others.
Catchily-named local band Emmet Scanlan & What the Good Thought kick off the proceedings with a mellow, acoustic batch of songs. A half-hour wait ensues between them leaving stage and Gough appearing, only to begin his performance with typically self-deprecating banter. “I’m really rubbish at this” he says, before going on to say that his contract states he is being paid for one hour only, but doesn’t specify how he should fill the time. “I could just do an hour of stand up” he laughs.
Nevertheless he does decide to play some songs, but comments after each one, “That was really rubbish” or “I hate that song” being his most used phrases. He performs alone tonight with just a guitar for company, ploughing through hits like ‘Once Around the Block’ and ‘Pissing in the Wind’, which sound catchy and tuneful, and the audience cheer as soon as they recognise the first few bars.
Older songs are interspersed with tracks from last year’s Is There Nothing We Could Do? – which was the soundtrack to ITV film ‘The Fattest Man in Britain’ – but Gough mainly showcases newer material which is to form part of an album set for release in October this year.
Tour manager Steve is on hand to help out on the keyboard, and after reappearing various times the audience begins to chant his name. “I should leave Steve to it really” says Gough, amidst giggles.
“How long have I got left?” he asks for the third time before checking the time. Looking through his iPhone, he finds a drum beat and summons Steve to mike it up so he can play along to it. “That wasn’t the right beat” he says after the song ends.
He’s been on stage for well over an hour, yet despite his protestations he carries on, teasing the crowd over when he might actually walk off stage. For the final number he launches into a piano-led version of Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’, which subtly transforms into a beautiful rendition of ‘Silent Sigh’.
After an hour and 40 minutes he finally says goodbye, not before thanking the audience for being “great”. For someone who claims to hate being onstage, he seems to have had a remarkably good time. Even if, after all these years, he does think he’s rubbish.