malcolm-middleton14bMalcolm Middleton @ The Hanbury Club, 25/11/2009

Strangely enough, the first article I ever wrote for the music pages of The Badger was a gushing appraisal of Malcolm Middleton’s fourth studio album, Sleight of Heart, so it makes sense that, two years on, I should finally be granted the opportunity to review his live showcase too.

It’s fitting, as well, given that Middleton himself has hinted that his latest effort – Waxing Gibbous – could in fact be his last as a solo artist.  “I’d like to do something different, whether it’s under a different name, or start a new band, or something,” he’s recently said of his career.  “I’m starting to feel like I’ve done as much as I can with this creative voice.”

Admittedly, I’d seen a former incarnation of Middleton several years ago – as one-half of the now defunct Arab Strap – in a dingier, emptier venue; and I walked away smitten.  It’s understandable, then, that as I took my place amongst the modest crowd at The Hanbury Club last Wednesday evening, I had high hopes and expectations.  It was worth the wait.

Still, it would be terribly easy to write the 35-year-old Scot off as being miserable for the sake of being miserable.  My case in point: the guy made a bid for the Christmas number one a couple of years ago with a track titled We’re All Going to Die, and his current tour has been dubbed ‘The Long, Dark Night’.  This is a man, after all, who will check that his audience are enjoying themselves, only to retort (completely deadpan, may I add), “then I’m not doing it right.”

But, the thing is, Malcolm Middleton is so much more than a moping miseryguts, and the tour seems to be anything but long and dark.  In fact, Middleton’s one-liners are refreshing, well-received, and break up his set nicely.  He even exchanges candid, relaxed banter with members of the audience.  But as he points out himself, he didn’t come to The Hanbury Club to talk, which is just as well: he seems at one on stage, and so he presses on with a set of his choice, before accepting requests from the crowd.  My personal highlights?  A Brighter Beat and Devastation.

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