Kind of got up close and personal at this gig, taking seats in the front row of an auditorium with a capacity of 150, sitting alongside Robert and Hugh of Simply Thrilled fame, and Rachel (aka Mrs V) who was seeing Malcolm Middleton for the first ever time.

Next month will see the release of Guitar Variations, under the guise of Human Don’t Be Angry, and will mark the eleventh solo studio album of his career. As much as I always enjoy seeing him playing in whatever band he has assembled to take on the road, there is something truly special with those shows when it is just Malcolm, his guitar and a microphone.

Last Saturday was one of the very best as he delved deep into the back-catalogue for songs that haven’t been aired in years alongside stripped-down and gorgeous versions of a number of songs from Bananas, his outstanding and shamefully-neglected album from 2018 (still can’t get my head round the fact it didn’t even make the longlist of 20 for the Scottish Album of the Year).

It was a very respectful audience….one that had come along to listen and applaud, with a few polite responses for their own personal favourites when Malcolm called for requests. Our collective appetites, including that of the performer, would only have been sated if the show had gone on for three or more hours as he himself was genuinely suprised when he looked as his watch and realised he was approaching the curfew and that he still had loads of songs he wanted to play.

I’ve long given praise to Aiden Moffat, the other half of Arab Strap, believing him to be as fine a lyricist as Scotland has ever produced, and as close to a modern-day national bard as we could hope to have. Malcolm Middleton is, however, equally capable of poetic beauty within songs. A while back, I did pull together an ICA within which I made reference to many of his lyrics often being self-deprecating to the extent of being on the verge of despair, but at other times laugh-out-loud funny with the most wonderfully astute observations on life…and finished off by observing that he pens a magnificent love song when the mood takes him.

I hadn’t really quite appreciated just how fine a lyricist he is until last Saturday’s show. Maybe it was the fact that I was close up and paying particular attention. Malcolm has never hidden the fact that he has battled with self-doubt and depression his entire career and this show brought home just many of those dark moments have been put into song but in ways that aren’t self-pitying, and indeed there’s more often that not an underlying message that someone or something gives the excuse, reason or strength to battle through and face another day.

I mused on things overnight and then it hit me….and while I’m 100% certain that I’m not the first to say it, there is something about Leonard Cohen in the way Malcolm Middleton conducts his craft with both of them being lazily badged as purveyors of misery when in fact there is so much more to the songs than first impressions would have you believe.

Oh, and never forget that he is an outstanding guitar player.

mp3 : Malcolm Middleton – Ballad of Fuck All
mp3 : Malcolm Middleton – Stay Close Sit Tight
mp3 : Malcolm Middleton – Gut Feeling
mp3 : Malcolm Middleton – Love Comes In Waves (live, solo)

Thanks to Robert for the photo.


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