LIVE REVIEW: David Thomas Broughton, Waskerley Way @ The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle (04.12.17) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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“This next one is a ballad” announces Michael Bridgewater, aka Waskerley Way, before unleashing harsh, syncopated blasts of noise for thirty or forty seconds to an amused  and bemused audience. It’s this moment of humour and defiant mischievousness that sets the tone for the evening. Michael’s set is brimming with confidence – he is one of the North East’s most consistently brilliant producers and performers and tonight he plays a handful of songs, some unreleased, that recall the strident, sinister output of Arca, set against the joyous effervescent feeling of playing F-Zero for hours as a kid.

David Thomas Broughton is a performer who defies superlative. Touring 2016’s criminally underrated Crippling Lack, Broughton absolutely captivates tonight. For a start, he’s an incredible songwriter; fragile, melancholic, emotionally astute songs delivered with a gorgeous baritone – think Anohni interpreting the songs of Jake Thackray. Broughton’s live performance of these songs, however, incorporates Andy Kaufmann-esque performance art and unpredictability, with odd physical jokes delivered with such intense conviction that they don’t detract from the (glorious) music.

Live, his plaintive, melodic songs are shrouded in blankets of dissonance and electronic noise to incredible unsettling effect. Tonight’s performance runs seamlessly without pause for interruption or applause as the cacophonous climax of one song is filtered into the start of the next.  Concrete Statement is punctuated with an impromptu performance of Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, David regularly goes into the audience with a tiny portable, distorted megaphone. Its an incredibly engaging, engrossing and schizophrenic experience; a man playing incredibly beautiful songs and a part of his personality attempting to ‘sabotage’ them with dissonance and off-the-wall humour.

The performance is propelled by Neil Turpin’s wonderful drumming; it’s sophisticated and egoless and it suits David’s songs perfectly. At the performance’s climax both men stand statuesque, looking at each other, and a captivated audience hesitate to applaud for a good minute afterwards. Where does the performance begin and where does it end? As it becomes clear that it’s over I realise how much I’ve been engrossed in the rabbit hole of David’s imagination and emotional landscape for the last hour and a half. It was a completely immersive emotional experience. 

On the basis of tonight’s performance, David Thomas Broughton is a national treasure who we should all welcome into our bosom and allow ourselves to be transported by.

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