Meltdown: Guy Garvey at the Royal Festival Hall
Guy Garvey said his aspirations for Meltdown was to make it feel like “a party where everyone’s invited”. As he strode onto stage, pint in one hand, audience in the other, it felt more like a best friend’s wedding than a packed concert hall. An atmosphere of joyful, inclusivity spread throughout the venue as the effortlessly affable frontman, windswept in voice and appearance, made a yeasty salute to a rapturous crowd.
What followed was an hour and a half full of brilliantly surreal anecdotes, poignant vocals and a bond between performer and spectator that felt personal and unique. The show’s production was understated, adding to its intimacy. A use of expressive lighting complemented the mood of each song perfectly, helping to characterise every moment of the performance, while avoiding the perils of overproduction. Drums, a variety of guitars and basses, a brass trio and mound of keyboards, in various stages of deterioration, were all positioned in an airy semi-circle around Garvey allowing maximum stage space for his roaming serenade. And roam he did. First across the sweeping stage before eventually dancing his way into the audience, sharing a hip thrust or two with any fan lucky enough to be found in his orbit of gyration.
The music for the most part suited the Royal Festival Hall, primarily featuring tracks from Garvey’s recent solo effort, Courting the Squall. Melodically, it echoed procession and strains of undulating saxophone made for a soothing, hypnotic opening. The following song presented a change in rhythm, via concussive jazz and a bouncing Garvey, dividing his time between singing and soloing on a one of the aforementioned keyboards.
Throughout the concert, the former Elbow singer and his band waxed lyrically about love, Manchester and everything in between. Pete Jobson, the bassist and deadpan storyteller extraordinaire, provided personal highlights to the show with his desert dry wit and anecdotal genius.
However, the evening was not without its faults. Infrequent shifts in tempo, tone and varying song styles made for stretches of one-note performance and dissipated energy, leaving the audience yearning for the next moment of onstage back and forth between Garvey and his band.
This energy was re-doubled again with the electrifying final anthem followed by an encore rife with tongue-in-cheek humor and soaring vocals. Despite a slight midpoint lull, the Mancunian singer-songwriter made good on his aspiration, delivering a riotous, soulful and endlessly entertaining fiesta of a performance.
Photo: Nick Bennett
Guy Garvey’s Meltdown is at Southbank Centre from 10th until 19th June 2016, for further information visit here.
Watch the video for Courting the Squall here: