A lanky figure in biker shades and red T-shirt, this New York City-based singer-songwriter has a fine confessional style. His improvised paintings are one thing, but his update on the one-man-band approach to live music-making is quite another. Using an electronic gizmo called the JamMan, Arthur builds looped backing tracks in real time, hitting the body of his acoustic guitar to generate rhythms. It is a deft business that needs sangfroid: any mistakes are destined to repeat ad infinitum.
Were the songs themselves not so strong, Arthur's use of the JamMan could appear gimmicky. But compositions such as "Can't Exist" and "A Smile that Explodes" knock the current chart-topper James Blunt into a cocked hat.
Now four albums into a career that began when Peter Gabriel signed him to Real World in 1997, Arthur's star is on the rise again. Yet, while recent support slots with REM and Coldplay brought him a larger audience, one suspects that his reconstructing of his material will continue to make him a tricky sell. Having recorded a beautiful sequence of guitar chords on the JamMan, Arthur then sings while adding scarlet poster-paint motifs to his canvas. The reanimation of the painting contrasts with the song's title, "Death Is What I Came".
As if to underline that he doesn't really need all the dazzling electronic trickery, Arthur also airs stunning renditions of the ballads "I'm Already Gone" and "Echo Park".
What do we want from the live gig experience? Surely, we want something that lives or dies on some element of risk. Joseph Arthur is a formidable live performer who understands this very well. Catch him as soon as you can.Reuse content