Going Galway: Part 3

August 4, 2010

After the exhibition, I walked across town to check out The Grippe Girls on Carolyn's suggestion. One of Carolyn's friends from acting school starred in this quirky two-woman play about two sets of twins living in a crumbling country estate. Obstina and Hildegard Grippe are elderly British women who have lived days of bygone and reckless adventure. They are being cared for by the devoted Margaret and Brigid, working class Irish and also twins who scheme to keep the Grippe's dark past away from a nosey documentarian by any means necessary. Although I hadn't much interest in the play apart from Carolyn's association, I was so happy I went. It was sharp and darkly comic with the actresses putting on just the right amount of affectation without overdoing it.

After a Guinness stew (which I can't say I would order again), I bought an umbrella that staved off the rain and wind for about 2 minutes and headed over to the Badly Drawn Boy show. It was either that or The Human League reunion which, after 28 years, was looking a little less human than I remember. I'd only known one song by BDB, but it's a song I really love called A Minor Incident.

Badly Drawn Boy was unlike any show I've attended. Shubha had set my expectations low by saying she'd seen him years ago where he kept the audience waiting for a couple hours before stumbling through renditions of his songs. It was so bad, she thought he was on heroin. So I wasn't sure what to expect when he strolled out on stage perfectly on time with long greying hair under a stocking cap, looking quite a bit shorter than I expected.

He started the concert by saying he doesn't play out live very much because he was just "shit" and the self-recriminations continued throughout the show. Sometimes he would stop a song in the middle commenting that he didn't know what the line he just sang even meant. Then continue the song only to stop 10 seconds later to explain the next line. It was almost like Behind the Music meets stand-up meets some odd performance art. I don't think I've ever seen a singer be so self-deprecating on stage and in some way it was refreshing to see all of the insecurities usually hidden behind such rock star pomp laid bare on his sleeve. He seemed grateful of the encouraging crowd and kept expressing surprise that Galway was being so kind to him.

BDB's relationship with the crowd was pure stream-of-consciousness and at one point he started talking about an iPhone game he was addicted to. Then he took out his phone and played a game (in case we didn't believe him) for about two minutes, talking all the while that his contract merely bound him to staying on stage for a certain amount of time and getting through a number of songs. The audience was graciously patient and BDB eventually decided he needed a drum track for his next number and used one of his iPhone apps to lay down the beat under a microphone. He started the song and then stopped because the drum beat was crap, then finished the song, then apologized that the drum beat didn't really fit at all. It was the first time I'd ever seen an iPhone used "professionally" on stage for music. It's a new age...

It sounds terrible, but in fact, the audience was into it, perhaps even sympathized to a degree with how hard it was for him to play live. Those of use who've played on stage (or even open mic) know that it's not easy pulling off songs solo. By the end of the concert, I think we were all rather endeared to Badly Drawn Boy and in return he played song after song long after we expected he would walk offstage. When he finally left, a number of people gave him a standing ovation.