Daniel Johnston & The Texan Sea Power (British Sea Power), Union Chapel, London



“Hi, how are you these days?” begins
Daniel Johnston, in 'Lost in My Infinite Memory'.

It's a question he's been asking ever since his sixth album, 1983's Hi, How Are You. That was illustrated with one of his cartoon frogs, later famously seen on a T-shirt worn by Kurt Cobain, giving this American outsider who recorded cassettes in his parents' basement a huge shot of publicity. Johnston – now middle aged, paunchy in jogging bottoms – was given another boost in 2006 by a documentary exploring his struggles with mental illness, but he still remains a cult figure.

And he surely always will. For the first three tracks, Johnston bashes away at an odd little headless guitar, making a rackety noise over which he sings brief ditties, with typically love-sick or self-loathing lyrics of child-like simplicity and surprising perceptiveness. Although these reach you plain and clear, his voice still exhibits that strained, tremulous, lisping fragility.

It is, being honest, something of relief when Johnston is joined by indie-folk band British Sea Power – tonight billed as The Texan Sea Power and referred to as his “Texan Sea Lions”. They bring melodic guitars, viola and drums to bear on his back catalogue, finding satisfying pop hooks. BSP's Hamilton Scott Wilkinson pounds out organ chords, recalling the wheezy tones of the cheap chord organ of Johnston's records, and suddenly a strange raw power takes hold - even as Johnston's two-handed grip on his microphone stand shakes violently.

He isn't the easiest person to play with, although BSP mostly look like they're having terrific fun. And after all, it is that rough hewn charm and creeping melancholia that Johnston's fans are looking for - and they cheer him all the way, sometimes literally, as when he begins 'Walking the Cow'. This is given a Gothic minor key creepiness that suits the venue, continued on 'Love Enchanted', all shivering cymbals and plaintive viola.

Johnston's always been a massive Beatles fan, and we get not only a remarkably assured-voiced cover of 'You've Got to Hide Your Love Away' – an obvious fit, riddled with paranoia – but also his tribute, 'The Beatles': “like a magical fairy tale that's hard to believe/But it really did happen” he sings with sweet sincerity. Given the warmth and admiration this naïve, unwell, unconventional but singularly talented individual continues to inspire, more than 30 years into an unlikely rock career – well, Johnston could almost be singing about his own fairytale.


‘Lost in My Infinite Memory'

‘There is a Sense of Humor Way Beyond Friendship’


‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances’

‘Casper the Friendly Ghost’

‘Speeding Motorcycle’

‘Walking the Cow’

‘Love Enchanted’

‘Mountain Top’

‘You've Got to Hide Your Love Away’


‘The Beatles’

‘Funeral Home’

‘Rock’n’Roll EGA’

‘Devil Town’

‘True Love Will Find You in the End’

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent