Stopping in the middle of his first song, and overcoming his dishevelled coyness, the 28-year-old Ciaran McFeely, aka Simple Kid, formally explained the origins of his three successive themed nights at London's tiny 12 Bar Club. One night, fed up with pop convention, he'd drunkenly raved at his manager that he wanted French chanteuses, soul players, banjo players, karaoke and spoken word on stage with him... Once sober, he forgot all about it - but his manager didn't. Thus we are here this evening for "Simple Kid-Brother", a semi-acoustic set with his lookalike older brother Alan. "Sample Kid" and "Karaoke Kid" are the two other spins to follow.
The 12 Bar Club has an acoustic rusticity and spots-and-all intimacy that seems to underline Simple Kid's turn to country and "realness" after his bout with fame as a promising young thing of early Nineties Brit-pop. (A sticker from McFeely's old band, The Young Offenders, remained on his brother's guitar.) His subsequent soul-searching on the roads of the US, after his band was dumped by the record company has given a transatlantic twang to the accent of this Irishman, raising the question of how real, or how affected, this Simple Kid is.
On stage, he seemed at home with a laptop, harmonica and battered acoustic alongside his brother in their anti-fashion trucker hats, stamping his foot, and asking questions of his audience: "Now, don't go sellin' your soul", "What are you looking for?"
As the star of the duo, the kid funked-up his down-off-the-street, drug fiend look with a beanie on top of his purple trucker cap. He is the very image of the charismatic twanger, reminiscent of a number of icons: there's the eccentricity of Marc Bolan; the political awareness and an inkling of the dry wit of Dylan; the poppy innocence and quirkiness of Donovan.
The song "Kids Don't Care", however, is some kind of acknowledgment of where he is now: in the non-politicised and cynical Noughties with the idealism of the Sixties a fading dream. His timely pressing of buttons on the drum machine between strumming his guitar suggested the contemporary moment, and traces of early Blur and early Beck were woven through his very catchy pop.
His relaxed but quick-witted presence meant he indulged in continual repartee with the crowd. When an audience member began telling a joke, of the "A duck walked into an employment agency..." variety, Simple Kid quickly interjected, "There will be a war in Iraq..." Despite political pepperings, this was essentially a light-hearted affair. McFeely has such a feathery, reedy voice and a jangly energy that it is the quirky song-stories and the pop choruses that are the best fit for him. Unfortunately, he fails to venture anywhere near the gravity or darkness of his idol, Johnny Cash - his covers really were just tributes.
The album may be overproduced and a bit twee - and the new single "Truck On" is the least appealing song on it - but Simple Kid's performance was the antidote.Reuse content