Vincent Gallo, Royal Festival Hall, London

Movie star, model, painter - and now it's Vincent Gallo the musician
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Vincent Gallo is a born provocateur, naturally at war with the world. The writer/ director/star of Buffalo 66 is also a photographer, painter, model and musician, all roles in which he has been showered with acclaim. But he has inspired equal loathing - most recently by critics of his second work as a director, The Brown Bunny.

Infamous for an unsimulated scene of oral sex received by Gallo from Chloe Sevigny, it was jeered at last year's Cannes.

What is often missed beneath the controversy and an image almost calculated by Gallo to make him seem a fraudulent braggart, is his real worth as an artist. His most treasured possession is a letter of support from William Burroughs, and he is in the Beat underground tradition of uncensored self-exposure.

Although he has a huge ego and ferocious temperament, he uses it to support work of Zen gentleness. This soft nature is most apparent in the music of his first UK record, When, a sensitive album about love, the centre of this show.

Gallo took to the stage late, and looked nervous. Wearing a black velvet jacket and backed by Sonic Youth's Jim O'Rourke and Steve Shelley on guitar and drums, his attempts at the higher notes on "When" were hopeless, and scattered sniggers suggested more than one member of the audience saw him as an accident waiting to happen.

But they were to be disappointed. Gallo's voice soon settled into its hauntingly wistful range, singing "It Would Be So Nice" as if he wanted to believe it. He fitted in with his band modestly enough, focusing on jazzy duets with O'Rourke.

Unlike most movie stars moonlighting in music (an almost unbroken roll of shame from Keanu Reeves to Russell Crowe) Gallo's talent is true. At his best he sucks you into moods of tangible longing and defiantly amateurish intimacy.

Flawed and inflammatory though he is, Vincent Gallo's strange, soul-bearing artistry cannot, finally, be denied.