Music Editor Thom Dent attends an exciting night of the best in student underground, amid the atmospheric dinge of Digbeth's MonasteryWritten by Thom Dent on 16th January 2018
Live Review: Nick Mulvey
Music writer Ali Gosling is blown away by Nick Mulvey's performance at Birmingham's O2 Institute
After hugely popular performances at big-name festivals this year, such as Glastonbury and Bestival, which showcased his stripped-back acoustic sound, I was intensely excited for Nick Mulvey to grace the stage of Birmingham O2 Institute. The back of the stage is draped with a wall hanging depicting the colourful, tapestry-like cover of his recent album Wake Up Now, released last month. It is with ‘Remembering’, one of the new songs from the album, that Mulvey opens, to an initially hesitant and subdued audience.
“Mulvey’s influence from studying at the School of Oriental and African Studies creates a unique sound that runs throughout all of his music and is apparent on stage too
However, this is followed with album favourite ‘Unconditional’, a gentle, almost tribal-sounding love song that clearly demonstrates Mulvey’s influence from studying at the School of Oriental and African Studies; a unique sound that runs throughout all of his music. Mulvey stands comfortably and naturally in the centre of the stage, meeting our expectations with his trademark look of a woolly hat (ears on show), Timberland boots and an impressive beard, of course. He is surrounded by his band, including two females who serve as accompanying singers, providing gentle soothing harmonies along with Mulvey’s soft crooning voice.
The energy of the crowd picks up with the well-recognised opening words of ‘Cucurucu’, which begins with just Mulvey and his guitar, singing simply to our eager faces, and us all signing earnestly in return that we are ‘yearning to belong’. At the end of this opening sequence, the Cambridge-born musician pauses, opens his arms wide, flashes a genuine smile as he tells us ‘amazing’, which is followed by multiple appreciative shouts from the audience.
Things get more serious as Mulvey and his guitarist, who appears to have some form of an accent (Italian, maybe?) speak to us about the meaning behind one of their new songs off the album, entitled ‘Myela’. Apparently written collectively, the track is about the ever-poignant stories of refugees, and a particular lyric, ‘But they’d rather die once in the sea / Than dying every day a little more’ is a direct quote from a young refugee boy. The song when performed live sounds even more eerie and distressing, naming individuals and advocating an acutely relevant chorus, the line ‘I am your neighbour, you are my neighbour’ repeated to an attentive audience.
“When Mulvey performs‘Myela’ live, it sounds even more eerie and distressing, especially the quotation taken directly from a refugee boy: ‘They's rather die once in the sea / Than dying every day a little more’
Mulvey ends his chilled, feel-good set with ‘Mountain To Move’, an upbeat but also reflective track which is perfectly apt in summarising Mulvey’s music as a whole. With the chorus a simple repetitive instruction to ‘Wake up now / Wake up now’, echoing the title of his album, Mulvey’s music clearly displays a political message about world affairs, which has an even more profound effect performed live. And given the current political climate, his music is something we all need in our lives.