Gig review: Ben Watt

Ben Watt
Ben Watt
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MUSIC

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh

****

Fending off the usual requests for more as he announced the show was coming to an end, Ben Watt pointed out a fact which is easy to forget. “I’ve only ever made two albums, come on,” he laughed. “Well, maybe three…” Under his own name, he’s responsible only for 2014’s Hendra and last year’s Fever Dream, plus 1983’s North Marine Drive. Yet his career is far more deep-rooted than that; for nearly two decades he and his wife Tracey Thorn were Everything But the Girl, and he’s worked as a DJ and label owner as well.

It’s unsurprising, then, that this low-key show was vibrant in its confident, assured production and playing, but what was surprising was just how suited to the role of frontman Watt is. His voice rarely featured on EBTG tracks, and he recounted how Thorn once had to convince him to play a song he wrote for her. In this context, however, the careworn, piano-led Rollercoaster resonated with his own lived experience.

Foregoing the live band he had formed with his friend Bernard Butler, Watt appeared here alongside Laura Marling’s double bassist Rex Horan, the simplicity of the set-up creating a chimingly intimate feel. He remembered family, including – with huge poignancy – his late half-sister Jennie and her bereaved husband in the gorgeous diptych of Hendra and The Levels. Watt’s voice and guitar-playing are mournful and reflective, but buried deep there’s a resolute enthusiasm for life, and a sense of hope which flowered fully during the closing Spring. His own late blooming as a solo artist is extremely welcome.