David Ford @ The Glee Club, 9/10/07

Everyone that plays at the Glee Club comments on how quiet and polite everyone is. It’s not that all Brummies are naturally diffident, it’s that the staff seem to be pretty sharp on their ‘behaviour in the club policy’ which points out that customers aren’t spending a night down the pub and so shouldn’t act like they are. On the plus side it means you don’t get people yapping away during your favourite songs. On the down side you have to listen to support acts who would benefit from being drowned out by a more convivial atmosphere. Joseph Golden was a victim of this down side and, as I’m never that keen on giving people entirely negative reviews, that’s all I’ll say on the matter. David Ford is touring his album Songs For The Road which was released earlier this week and has, quite rightly, collected a round of good reviews. You can read mine here, but if you want a quick summary then I’d say he sounds like one of those singer/songwriters might if they tried adding some feeling.

With the main room being taken up by the important business of rib-tickling comedy, we music fiends were packed into the cosy confines of the Glee Club’s studio. A friendlier, smaller area that’s much less library-like than the main room. David and band sauntered out and with little ado struck up a brisk I’m Alright Now followed by current single Decimate.

He’s a chatty bloke, David is, and not afraid of rambling monologue aimed in the general direction of the audience. He takes a little time to say what the songs are about and in the process seems to realise that the overwhelming theme is downbeat, if not downright miserable. Thankfully the songs doesn’t come across as whining and complaining although I’m pretty sure they would in other hands. Requiem’s a good example of this. It’s a moan about the inequities of the artist faced with The Man but is carried with enough fire in it’s belly to carry it through.

The show’s undoubted, phenomenal peak came mid-show in the absence of the rest of the band. Taking the piano, What Would You Have Me Do was a plaintive song of regret – the sort that you’ll have heard a thousand times by a thousand mediocre singers.

The show’s pulse was then quickened with State Of The Union which I’d be tempted to call a party-piece if that wouldn’t be to do it a huge disservice. Actually I’m not sure how to describe it. In simple terms he picked a refrain on his guitar and used a sampler to loop it while he sang over it, adding more guitar, percussion, piano and backing vocal loops to build to a crescendo but it turned out so much more than that.

Now, he could have done the same thing with the band (in fact the violinist stepped in at the end) so this was really a bit of showing off. The clever thing was it didn’t seem that way and actually fitted with the song – a rant against apathy – while focussing attention on him that much more. The sustained applause told the story of how well he pulled it off.

So, not an easy one to follow but for my money he managed it with a spine-tingling cover of The Smiths’ There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. Now, David’s no stranger to a cover version (check YouTube for tens of examples), but if ever there was a case of someone making a song their own then this was it. It’s a great song but I always felt that was despite Morrissey as much as because of him. David managed to give a measured, emphatic performance that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and gave the song the gravitas I’ve always found it slightly lacked.

After that I was quite happy to forgive album clunker Train and the not-particularly-great Nobody Tells Me What To Do. The remaining songs (Song For The Road, Cheer Up (You Miserable Fuck) and Katie) were good, sticking to the favoured topics of dented romance and gutsiness in the face of a proper (emotional or metaphorical) shoeing but even still, the memory of the heights reached mid-set remained.

Stop Press –Someone has put a vid of State of the Nation on YouTube. It’s from the Glee Club but from September 2005 – there was no writhing around on benches when I saw him! You’ll get the idea though. They’ve disabled embedding so click here to see it.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.