21ST MAY 2014
Nick Mulvey arrives on stage looking almost a bit shy. He begins with ‘April’ – a haunting track from stunning new album ‘First Mind’. Like the song, he begins quietly and hypnotically, gradually swelling in confidence, presence and volume, as his band join in mid-song. Tonight at the Village Underground Mulvey has added keyboards, drums, bass and backing vocals to his one man show, and it works incredibly well.
If you have had the chance to view any of his BBC Radio 1 or Later…With Jools Holland performances, you already know what an incredibly skilled and well-practised performer this man is. Thanks to a lot of hard work, tasteful PR and sheer talent, Mulvey is finally getting the recognition that he deserves and this is reflected in the audience – quite a mixed bag of people – brought together by the sheer quality of Mulvey’s work. His infamous cover of Taylor Swift’s ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ has inadvertently directed more than a few tweens his way through YouTube, but more than anything else has made him known to a much larger audience.
The London audience at the the Village Underground all seem like long-time fans, but they may just be people like me who have been listening to his album non stop since it was released on May 12th and can now almost sing along! Mulvey’s beautifully simple lyrics are certainly memorable. Indeed, the gig is centred around the album, with most tracks being played over the course of the night. Mulvey sounds flawless live, particularly impressing with ‘Juramidam’, ‘Nitrous’, ‘Venus’ and the soon-to-be-anthem ‘Cucurucu’.
Mulvey has drawn comparisons with Ben Howard and with good reason too – they both deal in high quality atmospheric folk. However Mulvey differentiates himself from Howard and others of the same genre with his highly individual way of playing guitar. It is so intricate that you find yourself staring at the band’s movements, trying to work out if he is really making all those sounds with just a guitar. At times it sounds almost harp-like, at other times like a kora, showing the influences that his travels in Africa and time at London University’s elite SOAS department have had upon his music. Tracks ‘Juramidam’ and ‘Ailsa Craig’ particularly show off this influence during the gig. Mulvey’s time with Portico Quartet also seems to have made quite an impact on his performance – the group’s ability to create soundscapes that build and build has definitely found its way into Mulvey’s solo career, and rightly so.
The gig draws to a close with songs that only make the intensity in the room stronger – ‘Fever to the Form’, ‘First Mind’ and ‘House of Saint Give Me’ leave the audience weak at the knees. Seeing Nick Mulvey play with a band only adds to the depth to his performance, and the stark brick walls of the factory-like venue combined with minimal lighting highlight the main event – one seriously gifted musician. Who needs dry ice with talent like this!