BADLY DRAWN BOY at Lee's Palace, November 8. Tickets: $13. Attendance: 500. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
It became painfully obvious Wednesday why Badly Drawn Boy, aka Manchester bedroom songwriter Damon Gough, stretches his performances out for three hours rather than a quick and tidy 90 minutes.Gough works on some sort of schizophrenic rotation system, alternating between three or four different personalities every 15 or 20 minutes and with a production rate that creates way more strikes than hits. On his wildly acclaimed, Mercury Prize-winning The Hour Of Bewilderbeast record, judicious editing and the ability to occasionally hit pause make Gough's inconsistencies bearable. Live, however, it's a matter of being occasionally brilliant and often simply frustrating.
In front of a packed Lee's Palace crowd, with trademark woolly toque pulled low over his head and a surprising lack of beer on the keyboard in front of him -- something to do with a 911 call in upstate New York the night before -- Gough was in fine shambolic form, stopping and starting, with acerbic little comedy routines and funny voices between the notes.
Fifteen minutes in, he stopped a song midway through and threatened to straighten out an apparently surly fan in the back of the room. That was followed by spot-on impersonations of pal Liam Gallagher and some hilarious moaning about how Bruce Springsteen won't come to his shows, along with the occasional song from his album or one of his three EPs.
The shtick went from charming to childish within a couple of songs, which is unfortunate because Gough can write his ass off. When he and his dishevelled, immensely heavy backing band did get their shit together, they were hypnotizing, stumbling eloquently through twisted folk songs like The Shining, Everybody Stalking and Another Pearl.
Clearly, this is the act that's made Gough some kind of celebrity in the UK, not the half-assed antics that nearly got him thrown out onto the Bloor Street sidewalk by a bouncer who mistook him for riff-raff.
It's amazing how good you can be when you actually try.