Joseph Arthur at Rough Trade East
There’s a warmth surrounding American singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur as he takes the intimately set stage of Rough Trade East on Thursday night. He draws in the wandering crowd before his set even begins, with audience members gathering around simply to hear him rehearse. Arthur’s latest offering The Ballad of Boogie Christ follows nine full-length albums and 11 EPs, marking an obvious move away from the soft pop sensibilities of his earlier days, care of the well-known, sleepy and sentimental Honey and the Moon.
Kicking off with Saint of Impossible Causes, it’s immediately apparent that Arthur’s penchant for complex, evocative lyrics still remains ten albums on. Layered with his husky, David Gray-esque vocals and an effective use of the loop pedal, Arthur presents a solid introduction to his new album that pleases a mostly impromptu crowd. The audience appreciation goes oddly quiet between tracks and an amiable and chatty Arthur deserves praise for his genuine attempt to engage an uncharacteristically shy East London turn out.
He introduces King of Cleveland as “a song about the Manchester of America,” carried by his knack for a guitar solo looped and layered to pop rock perfection. His partiality towards beat-poet-style verses is unfortunately a bit hit and miss though, as the looped multi-layering tends to drown out what are otherwise wonderfully poetic lyrics. While the mesh of sounds comes off as a little too busy for some tracks, Arthur deserves credit for creating the illusion of a full band from only himself and a lone drummer.
I Miss the Zoo is a clear stand-out as the best illustration of Arthur’s flair for the narrative, as he tells a story of a life of addiction and “the euphoria of dying and being born all at once”. Finishing with a throwback to Almost Blue from The Graduation Ceremony, the crowd are left with an admiration for Arthur’s lyricism and an inescapable sense of intrigue for what the rest of The Ballad of Boogie Christ might bring.
For further information and future events visit Joseph Arthur’s website here.
Watch the video for Saint of Impossible Causes here: