When Sam Duckworth – better known as Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. – sidled, suited and booted, on to this Brighton stage, it was for the first time in 11 months. Duckworth has been busy writing and recording his new album, Searching for the Hows and Whys, and putting the legwork in to his own fledgling recording company, Mannequin Republic. The lack of recent live performances proved a stumbling block for Duckworth, as he scrabbled his way through the first few songs of his UK tour.
As the set progressed, everyone, the crowd included, warmed up and tuned in. A couple of crowd-pleasers down the set list, most notably the early singles "I Spy" and "Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager", and things were definitely on the up. Duckworth clearly thought so too, commenting that "this is a bit like learning to ride a bike again". When he stripped off his jacket to reveal a heroically uncool shirt (reminiscent of the infamous "wallpaper shirt" in the movie Garden State), it was as if he was casting off his nerves along with the expensive tailoring.
Despite a couple of first-night fumbles, the set was well-polished, and contained a good balance of fan's favourites and new material. As always, a stunningly tight and consistent backing band ably assisted Duckworth. He is, and always will be, the star of the show, but they bring so much more than just bass and brass to the mix. The soaring, somewhat epic finale, "Could've Seen It All", offered the delightful sight of Mikey Glenister and Gavin Fitzjohn, usually the stalwart brass section, stationed behind timpanis and singing their hearts out, like a couple of naughty boys at the back of a school orchestra.
The sense of polish was most keenly felt on a forthcoming album track, "The Children Are (the Consumers of) the Future". It has been doing the rounds for more than a year; Duckworth has played it live and a demo recording of it featured as a B-side on a previous single. A song that started out as a strum-along rant from the back of a tour bus has been honed to an almost symphonic peak and is surely a contender for a future single.
He may have lost some weight, gained some famous musical friends and been injected with a serious dose of media hype along the way, but under the modified image lies the same Sam Duckworth I first saw three years ago on a sunny Saturday at the Truck festival. He hasn't forgotten how to whip a crowd up into a frenzy, and he also hasn't stopped badgering them about the things that matter.
Laura Pope, Student in international relations, Brighton