On a whim (and an offer of free entry) I made my way to the Sugar Club last night.
It was a night of firsts. The first time I was ever in the Sugar Club, for example. That place is weird. Waitress service to the tables DURING the gigs, and a soft, warm colour scheme that almost makes your face feel fuzzy. Felt like I should be watching a particularly glib stand up comedian.
Also the first time I’ve been directly stung by the cancellation of mid-week Nitelinks, leading to a twenty minute traipse to the nearest lend of taxi fare.
But primarily it was the first time I ever saw Adrian Crowley. He’s been on my radar in one way or another since Bren interviewed him in Analogue Issue 3, but for some reason (possibly an ongoing perception of him as a latent singer-songwriter type) I never got any of his albums or went to see him play.
I liked some of what he did last night. Whatever he was doing with his guitar – either some kind of ring modulator or maybe a midi organ effect or something? – added an interesting enough texture to make him different to the myriad other contemplative types. And at least one of his songs had the bass-thump treble-jangle of a good Daniel Rossen composition.
I was also a little intrigued by his lyrical obsessions. Almost every song he played in his set-plus-two-encores seemed to be about water, horses or bees. It’s fun to imagine the guy hidden away in a songwriter’s retreat somewhere, churning out song after song about bees, with a record company bellowing down the phone at him: “Please Adrian! Just write ONE boy-meets-girl and we’ll give you the world!” But that’s fantasy. Obviously.
The ongoing metaphorical occupation is probably the main saving grace, because where others become onanistic and bare with thin metaphors for sadness and lost love, Crowley explores some deeper, more literary territory. It makes him, at least, a little easier to listen to.
On the whole though, I’m not really converted. I remarked to my companion halfway through the gig that, though most of his songs don’t really have hooks per se, they are at least short enough not to become boring. As soon as I said this, Adrian Crowley proceeded to play a full band song for the guts of forever. While the musicianship of the backing band of drums, guitar and bass/keys was impeccable in itself, Crowley for me was generally better when he was quieter, and you could properly hear him think.
In summation, it wasn’t a bad way to spend a night, but I wouldn’t call myself a new fan. There’s enough to be sympathetic to the music if you encounter it, but the odds of being blown away by the quiet reticence and sincere, literary songwriting of this melancholy man aren’t great. I’m wary of being either too positive or too negative here: I don’t want to be too negative because I recognise that what he does is interesting enough, but I don’t want to be too positive because I can’t really see myself listening to much of it. I’ll give it a plus.