Offering cringeworthy moments and tracks of self-loathing, Malcolm Middleton performed his usual fare at Paisley’s Spree Festival, concluding the Autumn music festival in the Art Centre. Supported by the husky singer of Mt Doubt, Leo Bargery, Middleton pulled off a set list of the unpredictable and heckled requests, satisfying fans and enthusiasts.
Malcolm Middleton, oft referred to as one half of Arab Strap, you know, the other one that is no Aidan Moffat, came solo for this gig tonight, band far from in tow. An intimate set, with little between him and his audience, certainly no lacking of camraderie and patter, it was a more sedate affair from what might one might expect for the end of a music festival. The Spree 2019 has seen artists such as Gruff Rhys and Karine Polwart as well as Pictish Trail on their programme, top notch for folk and alternative music, and perhaps this closure is rendered okay for that.
Leo Bargery, of Mt Doubt fame, was up first, performing his own tracks as well as covers by Sparklehorse and David Berman, with an ounce of self-deprecation, an awkward hi to anyone walking in during set, and an improved vocal. With head nods toward Nick Cave and Josh Homme with that deep, gravelly yet soulful voice, Bargery impresses the audience ahead of Middleton’s acoustic set of all his, “s**t Bsides and stuff.”
Middleton, who wowed his fans by playing requests as well as lesser-played tracks, including 1,2,3,4 and Devil and the Angel, tackles mental health and anxiety with his hour or so set. Interjecting this self-loathing with dry humour and audience mockery, there were moments of light relief throughout the set, but all in all, a complex and oft difficult listen. Pleased to be missing a family outing to The Greatest Showman with this event scheduled, Middleton’s tracks were occasionally pleasing to the ear, incorporating Love Comes in Waves, and Blue Plastic Bags in amongst the Salamander Gray and Love Is A Momentary Lapse in Self-Loathing. For those that are not acquainted with his music, it might come as an anti-climatic, formidable night of ents for those expecting a concluding Spree with a bang. However, Middleton pulls off an evening of lo-fi acoustic consternation, as any Arab Strap fan might anticipate.
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