Gig Review: Nick Mulvey @ The Colston Hall
by Ben Podmore
What better way to end a beautiful early Summer day than with a performance by experienced musician and fresh-sounding singer-songwriter Nick Mulvey at the iconic Colston Hall? Mulvey’s approach, along with a repertoire of two albums and a selection of evocative covers, created an intimate atmosphere at Bristol’s largest concert hall.
The (at times) broody atmosphere was crafted from the beginning by support act TT’s (Theresa Wayman of Warpaint’s solo project) set which ebbed with a dark intensity, creating a sense of anticipation for the headline act. Following this Nick Mulvey made a dramatic appearance in near total darkness beginning his set with ‘We Are Never Apart’, a beautiful serenade-like song exploring love, fracking, and the unity of existence, while transforming from melancholy to euphoria. The ability to take the audience on an authentic journey from feelings of tense isolation and frustrated questioning to moments of celebratory joy and togetherness was central to Mulvey’s success and underpinned the night’s performance. ALthough, at times,this seemed somewhat forced by the lighting and stage props - perhaps it would have been more effective to let the music speak for itself. ‘April’ and ‘Juramidam’ were hypnotic in their intensity and complimented his newer material in what was a captivating and balanced set; Mulvey’s strength as a performer could be seen in the seemingly effortless way he changed the mood of the evening from song to song.
"The ability to take the audience on an authentic journey from feelings of tense isolation and frustrated questioning to moments of celebratory joy and togetherness was central to Mulvey’s success and underpinned the night’s performance."
In a time of seemingly increasing antagonism for social division along political lines, it felt particularly important that so much of Mulvey’s material explores themes of loving human relationships, a more general unity, and the circumstances surrounding migration. Although at one point he directed this message to millennials, he also made mention of anyone else who cared (presumably about humanity’s shared problems and future) and there was a real mixture of responsive and appreciative people making up the audience. The optimistic and upbeat ‘In Your Hands’ and ‘Transform Your Game (We Still Remain)’ received enthusiastic responses and the audience’s participation throughout the show, at times singing along word for word, was a noticeable and uplifting characteristic of the night. One of the most powerful aspects of music is surely its ability to bring people together and this is something Mulvey is clearly trying to cultivate through his music, although it would perhaps be more easily enjoyed at one of his upcoming outdoor festival performances.
Beginning his career after an interesting musical education in Cuba and at London’s SOAS in the eclectic Portico Quartet, it was probably always a certainty that Nick Mulvey would emerge as more-or-less progressive solo artist. However, one of the most captivating parts of the nights performance were his covers of older artists work in Bob Dylan’s ‘I Was Young When I Left Home’, and Gillian Welch’s ‘Look At Miss Ohio’, both sensitively handled if spun more optimistically than their original versions, they seemed to acknowledge Mulvey’s influences while taking on new personalities and hinting at new meanings. Both artists are remarkable in the history of the singer songwriter tradition for the emotional depth and complexity of their work, and if this is the direction in which Mulvey is aiming there is not only a lot to enjoy now but also a lot to look forwards to from him in the future, and he could certainly go further with the messages he is passionately trying to put forward.
A consummate musician, interesting songwriter, and captivating performer, Nick Mulvey and his band kept the audience attentive from the beginning to an encore which had near enough the whole venue up and dancing. That said, there is a lot of room for him to go further with the musically experimental and politically progressive elements of his music, and perhaps some fresh air wouldn’t hurt either.
Catch Nick Mulvey on the rest of his tour.