Ladies and gentlemen, it's amateur hour

<i>Badly Drawn Boy</i> | Leeds Metropolitan University
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The Independent Culture

For his first performance since winning the £20,000 Mercury Prize Damon Gough has set his heights not very high at all. Preceded by the worst type of student comic revue imaginable, he takes the stage swigging from a bottle of Jack Daniels. There is a projected back drop of Jimmy Saville and the sound system plays the Seventies orchestral theme from Van Der Volk by the Simon Park orchestra.

For his first performance since winning the £20,000 Mercury Prize Damon Gough has set his heights not very high at all. Preceded by the worst type of student comic revue imaginable, he takes the stage swigging from a bottle of Jack Daniels. There is a projected back drop of Jimmy Saville and the sound system plays the Seventies orchestral theme from Van Der Volk by the Simon Park orchestra.

Gough, in his incarnation as Badly Drawn Boy, has a licence to play the court jester of indie pop's barren wastelands. This is reinforced by his Mercury bauble and he leads the crowd in triumphant arms-aloft hand-clapping.

The celebration proves premature. Gough took two years to complete the varied and edifying song cycle that is titled The Hour of the Bewilderbeast. Though he might now wish to reincarnate himself as a spontaneous artiste, the bottle and his new Blacker than Sabbath band let him down.

One of the early "treats" is a new song, evidently made up on the spot. It is a homage to the "freshers and novices who probably have never seen a gig before." The band laboriously chop out lame funk riffs while the drum machine plays an equally perfunctory back beat.

For those who thought the Badly Drawn Boy phenomenon was a welcome riposte to the era of get-all-you-can pop culture espoused by fellow Mancunians Oasis, this is a sobering experience.

When it becomes too tedious for even the freshers and novices to accept Gough takes to the floor. He is by now pathetically drunk but between his forays on stage, and off, there are some songs. The leaden and cumbersome band serves to underline his fey and anaemic vocals. The not very funny intimations, boasting, posturing and slagging off of critics merely seems like the defence mechanism of a chronically shy man.

The album's highlight, "Stone on the Water", is stopped and started, losing its gentle bucolic wonder. He does a version of "Born in the USA" that makes his often professed love for Bruce Springsteen seem little more than an ironic pose. There is an ill-advised and, he admits, unrehearsed attempt at The Smiths' "Oscillate Wildly".

The roll call of artists Gough is compared with - everyone from Syd Barrett to William Blake - seems ever more ludicrous as the evening progresses. There are, surely, people drinking cans of Super in the local shopping precinct capable of greater insight.

The persona that emerges on the Bewilderbeast album recalls the incurable post-punk romantic Jilted John. These days, he earns a living as the hapless variety performer John Shuttleworth. Is that what the future holds for Damon? On this showing, it could only be an improvement.

A version of this review appeared in later editions of yesterday's newspaper

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