Just back from the excellent Tim Bowness gig at the Boston Music Room in Tufnell Park, London. Why Tim isn't appearing on much bigger stages I'll never know, because his songs are astonishing, the performances are powerful and heartfelt, and he really deserves to be better known.
For the moment though I'm enjoying the low key gigs, the intimate surroundings and the feeling that Tim and his band are playing for me, just me. And this is key to understanding why I love seeing and hearing a Tim Bowness live performance.
From the earliest days of no-man Tim's songs have had peculiarly personal quality about them. Regardless of the subject matter, I always get the same feeling from most of his songs, a feeling that the song is addressed directly to me, no-one else, just me. Which is why so many of Tim's songs simultaneously bring comfort and also sometimes tears. In concert that feeling is lessened, as I am surrounded by a couple of hundred other people, but not entirely gone. I was right at the front, just as I was last year at the Borderline, right underneath Tim's mic stand. A fantastic view of everything that happened on stage and close enough to almost forget that there was an audience behind me. A wonderful feeling.
The evening opened with Colin Edwin creating some soundscapes on his shiny red bass as Andrew Booker gently shimmered the cymbals. As Mike Bearpark joined them on guitar, Booker's drumming gradually became more insistent, harder and wilder, until a ferocious groove had been created. This improvised piece, perhaps 15 minutes long, was the support act, and actually worked extremely well in setting the mood.
A short break and the trio were back accompanied by Stephen Bennett on keyboards and 'some Tim bloke' as Edwin had mentioned earlier. They launched into "The Great Electric Teenage Dream' which was considerably more powerful and pounding than on record. Tim and Stephen were really screaming out the vocals at the end. Immediately there was the sense that this band were going to rock. Hard. And so they did. As if to emphasise their rock credentials Tim even leaped into the air at the song's conclusion - but immediately followed it with a self-deprecating 'that's what we call theatrics.' Keeping the momentum going with "The Warm Up Man Forever' and "Press Reset", the brutal second half of which was one of the many highlights of the night, the energy levels were at maximum.
"Sing To Me" followed, one of my favourites from the new album Stupid Things That Mean The World. As with pretty much everything that was played tonight, this was another track which came across far more forcefully onstage. A stunning guitar solo from Professor Bearpark - in fact Mike's guitaring was terrific all night, switching from ambient cries to powerchords or squealing solos with ease.
As well as tracks from Tim's two recent albums we were also treated to some no-man songs - "Time Travel In Texas", no longer the scratchy, shuffly track from Wild Opera but now a muscular, thumping and downright funky work out. Later in the set we had another Wild Opera song - "Housewives Hooked On Heroin" which had been thoroughly made over into a dark and dirty slice of rock.
Before that though were a couple more from the new album - a lovely rendition of "Know That You Were Loved", although half the audience wasn't paying attention and started clapping as the coda began, which drew a mild telling off from Tim once the song had properly finished. And then the title track - the performance of which made me realise what a wonderfully catchy song it is, and if this world was a better place then "Stupid Things That Mean The World" would be a massive hit single.
My absolute highlight of the night was the gorgeous "Dancing For You" - it's such a pretty song, such a melancholy song, such an emotional song - another brilliant solo from Mike, some beautiful keyboarding from Stephen, and Tim delivering a vocal that really got to me. Even if the rest of the show had been rubbish then I'd have been happy to have heard "Dancing For You". But the rest of the show was just as good. Another treat - "The Me I Knew" from My Hotel Year, Tim's first solo album - vastly different from the sparse original, now with complex percussion and bass, and a delightful keyboard intro.
The main set ended with "Smiler At 50", dark and brooding, a real sense of aggression barely restrained, and as the apocalyptic coda began Tim jumped from the stage and nimbly ran through the audience as the monolithic slabs of noise poured from the stage behind him.
How do you follow that? Well, they encored with the brilliant no-man track "All The Blue Changes". I love the way the song begins gently but insistently with Andrew Booker rapping out the rhythm, but over the course of the song everything rises in intensity, noise accumulating upon noise creating a maelstrom of music which I never want to end.
And that was it - a cracking gig, a very appreciative audience and a band that absolutely delivered. It's such a shame that they don't play more shows.
As I was leaving I was surprised to see Tim Bowness hanging around the merch table, so I was able to shake his hand and thank him both for the show, and for all the years of pleasure and comfort his music has given me. And will hopefully continue to do for many many years to come.