Monday, December 2, 2013

Live Review: RM Hubbert, Old Cinema Launderette, Durham (01/12/2013)

Most musicians would round off their most successful year yet with a lap of honour or perhaps a one-off megashow, but not RM Hubbert - he played in front of a row of washing machines! One of North East England's more obscure venues, Durham's Old Cinema Launderette has spent the past two years hosting acoustic sessions and poetry readings, with the cult Glaswegian the latest to visit before a packed gathering of 22. It mightn't sound like the most glamorous setting, but for this guitarist such intimate appearances and the audience interaction which comes with them are more valuable than any hefty stage or mammoth crowd. Indeed, the 39-year old uses these performance as his own means of remedy; his beautiful and skillful flamenco pieces acting as a direct and defiant response to mental illness and withering personal setbacks. It all sounds rather depressing, but as he acknowledges, the tone of this routine has lifted as of late, a sure sign the method is working wonders.

A little recognition does no harm of course, and that's exactly what he got when 2012's Thirteen Lost & Found picked up the prestigious Scottish Album of the Year prize - only for that record to be be eclipsed almost immediately by recent follow-up Breaks & BoneLeaning on them, as well as 2010's solo debut First & Last, tonight's set tilted towards his sublime instrumentals, intersecting them with new favourite "Bolt" and indispensable pair "The False Bride" and "Car Song." As always, there was also plenty of chatter, but far from waffle this is as much an element of his shows as the music, helping discern the meanings of songs and the circumstances in which they were penned. This is especially effective for those with no words; the likes of "For Joe" and "For Maria" taking on a whole new significance once laid out in such frank yet dry humoured expression. With listeners encircling him and hanging on every last word, it all played out like an especially rewarding round of group therapy, and moreover provided a perfect, intimate surrounding in which his magnificent music could flourish. Tremendous.



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