Tom McRae, Concorde II, Brighton
Wednesday 05 March 2003
If you gave me a penny for every pain-racked, acoustic guitar-wielding singer-songwriter, I could have built my own recording empire. A good night out would probably cure most of them of their woes, though in the case of Tom McRae you get the feeling the wretchedness runs deeper. His self-titled debut album, released three years ago, was a work of stunning, sinister beauty; his latest CD, Just Like Blood (the title comes from the poem "I Say I Say I Say" by Simon Armitage), is an impassioned essay on love and solitude.
That's not to say McRae, 29, is without humour. "Welcome to laugh-along with Tom," he says dryly after a bleak rendition of "You Cut Her Hair" ("Time has coloured in the black and white of your sin"). Next is "Mermaid Blues", introduced by our black-clad host as "another happy song about drowning"; in fact it's an eerie elegy punctuated by grim silences and spookily discordant strings. When some wag yells: "Sing us a sad song", McRae replies with a smile, "Boy, have you ended up at the right gig".
You don't imagine that this Suffolk-born singer would be the life and soul of a party but, as the front runner in a new, oversubscribed generation of sad-eyed troubadours, he has advantages over his rivals.
Fear and dislocation may pervade most of McRae's songs but he avoids the tortured histrionics. His voice – by turns raspy and smooth – perfectly conveys the melancholy, sometimes spiteful, lyric sentiments. He has a chilling way with words, too. As he murmurs the refrain "If you let me I could love you to death" in "A Day Like Today" you can feel a collective shiver running down the spines of the crowd.
For all his subtlety and restraint, McRae can make noise. In "Karaoke Soul", about how appearances can be deceptive, he and his band – a curly-haired cellist, a keyboardist and a bassist who sidelines on the bongos – come very close to rocking.
"It's a miserable night outside," says McRae, "and I guess it's not that different inside." He's not wrong, though it's the best miserable night I've had in a while.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Women should not laugh in public,' says Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister in morality speech
- 2 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 3 Is Ebola coming to Britain? UK health officials issue warning to doctors as outbreak fears grow
- 4 Richard Dawkins says 'date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse' on Twitter
- 5 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
'Phallic symbols' found hidden in famous Pre-Raphaelite painting 'Isabella' by John Everett Millais
Top Gear Burma episode breached Ofcom rules over Jeremy Clarkson's racial slur
Freddie Prinze Jr on 24: 'Kiefer Sutherland was the most unprofessional dude in the world – I hated every moment of it'
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies trailer unveiled at Comic-Con
How did our legends really begin?
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
- < Previous
- Next >