September 15, 2017
The Seabright Arms, London
“This collective madness he has allowed into his professional music show”
Tom Aylott had an unusual route into Sean McGowan’s concert. As well as being the opening act, he was the show rep, part of the promo team and working the door. No pressure!
He played a borrowed guitar with a recently formed band, but neither showed. Songs like Quick Route brought the noise. A-B Testing hinted at a more cerebral background.
It was the solo segment where the lyrics really stood out, revealing an introspective side. This was more heart-on-sleeve emo in style than the earlier heavy cacophony. Aylott maintained a wry sense of humour despite the confessional lyrics and earnest delivery. He referred to a song about cutting, depression and suicidal thoughts as “a cheery one.”
“We did have a great lasagne”
By contrast, Happy Accidents really were relentlessly cheery. They were on the indie pop end of the emo spectrum, cut with solid bass lines and harmonies, especially in Facts and Figures.
Their unbridled enthusiasm had its downfall, quite literally, when the singer fell over. Others might have passed it off as an intentional rock move but he was far too honest for that. He laughed it off though. It’s a good cure for stage nerves, apparently!
Although not the most obvious support band for Sean McGowan (“this songs about going to bed early”…), in the end their optimism was infectious. Perhaps we should all take the time to be thankful for great lasagnes! Plus they namechecked Safe Gigs For Women, which is always worthy of support.
“Bit of alright this, innit?”
Seán McGowan limbered up for his triumphant solo set with a spoken word piece, 93 Gag Part I. He was ostensibly on the road promoting his latest EP Graft and Grief . However, given the cheer that erupted when he sang ‘there’s more to life than just graft and grief,’ it seemed that most of the crowd already owned it.
There was no doubt he was among friends when £5.25 turned into a singalong, and he was more than ready to get the party started: “let’s have a giggle, shall we?”
Despite now being a signed recording artist (casual observers would be forgiven for thinking he was with Xtra Mile Recordings long ago the amount of XMR shows he’s been at over the years), he wasn’t taking himself too seriously. When a fan yelled out appreciation, he immediately shot back with “I love you too, mum! No, there’s no way my mum would admit she loves me in public!”
He hadn’t toned down the banter either, but the off-colour quips were optimistic in essence: “I grabbed life by the bollocks and it’s alright, actually.”
That is unless you’re his bandmate, Deano, who’s never going to live down missing the video shoot for Costa Del Solution: “he had egg on toast and a fucking nap and missed it!” Deano was unrepentant: “two slices, five eggs,” he boasted. It didn’t dampen the admiration of the crowd who, like usual, chanted ‘DEANO, DEANO’ as if he were a prize fighter.
Jay and Michael were also on hand to round out the band and bring the noise.
For all the cheeky personalities and classic bants, the songs passed the test. The fans didn’t need telling twice when McGowan said “have a dance if you want.” All at once limbs and sweat went flying as drum ‘n’ bass influenced drum beats bolstered the standard rock style for Never Let Us In and Neverland.
The Apple Core hinted at a more melodic side, which was built on in a solo segment. McGowan called Patchwork his “back to basics” bit. This may be how many of the crowd first encountered him; in stripped-down support slots with just an electro-acoustic guitar and a microphone.
The tender, sometimes “fucking depressing,” songs like Patchwork and Come Unstuck aren’t necessarily the ones McGowan is known for now, but they’re powerful enough to silence a rowdy crowd, and their impact lingers longer.
The devastatingly poignant track Millbrook Road was not just the highlight of the show, it was one of the live highlights of 2017.
He ended with a heartfelt message: “thank you for your time, patience, love and support” over the years. McGowan was clearly touched by the backing he’d had at this sold out show too, which he called the “best fucking night of my life.” Judging by his performance and the crowd’s reaction, there will be much bigger career highs before too long. I, for one, hope to be there to capture those moments!
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