By Max Modell
To be able to carry a gig on your own is a unique skill. The limitations of this set up can lead to the set becoming stale due to stylistic similarities, it takes a true craftsman to keep an audience engaged despite this great hurdle. This is the task Nick Mulvey set himself on his current In Your Hands Solo Tour, where he performs a stripped down more initiation version of his discography, breaking the songs down to their essential essence and giving audiences an insight into the deeper meaning of songs as well as helping them further understanding his writing process. Mulvey achieves this with interludes prefacing songs with explanations of the writing process, guitar techniques or provide additional context to the songs meaning. As such, this current tour provides a unique opportunity for fans to create a deeper personal connection with Mulvey and his songs.
As soon as Mulvey came on stage I was stuck by this rhythmic guitar playing, reminiscent of Charlie Cunningham who I had seen on the same stage a year prior. Mulvey explained how this style develop when he was living in a mould ridden house in London where he was introduced to this playing style by some Congolese friends who would teach him to play Congolese pop songs. This is a style Mulvey then developed into his own, sitting but the river playing with the techniques he had learned, adding his own chord structures and developing the patterns found in this style of music.
Mulvey’s songs tend to take patterns and then develop them. During the set talked of his obsession with patterns which was very evident in the performance where he would take simple patterns often indicative of beats and develop them as far as possible. This could test the patience of those who were not invested in the style, but also created some of the best moments of the gig, a highlight being the extended version of ‘Imogen’ which included an interlude explaining how the song was written and climaxed with Mulvey utilising the audience as his backing choir.
While the use of patterns was fascinating from a musical standpoint and provided the backbone of the performance the high points were the most personable moments such as ‘Fever to the Form’ with its opening lyrics “So Whether music or madness live by one of the two” summing up how music provides meaning to Mulvey and so many others, a sentiment which was particularly poignant in a room which was so receptive Mulvey. He was also not afraid to admit how much he personally loves this song, something which only endeared me further to him.
He also showed no fear in being political, dedicating the show to Simon Blevins, Richard Roberts and Rich Loizou who this week were arrested for their anti-fracking protests whose actions “caused costs and disruption” to energy firm Cuadrilla.
The most effective of these political statements in the show was his performance of ‘Myela’, a song which takes its lyrics from the testimony of refugees who have made the journey across seas to safety, presenting a message of equality and giving voice to those who may not have otherwise been heard.
A unique set, running at nearly 2 hours with a short break in the middle, the performance was tailored specifically for fans of Mulvey offering a deep dive into his musical process. However, more than that is also offered fans a deep dive into who Mulvey is as a person. The gig showed audiences Mulvey’s sense of humour which is a side not often seen in his more serious albums. He was also not afraid to show his love and appreciation to his fans who allow him to make and perform music for a living.
While enjoyable to all, if you are unacquainted with Mulvey you may be better off going to a show where he performs with a full band. But if you really want to get to know Mulvey and truly love him then there is no better opportunity to develop this relationship further than his current solo tour.