Ben Watt’s career has been so associated with his partner Tracey Thorn’s since the pair formed Everything But The Girl in 1983, that it’s easy to forget that he started as a solo act, signed to Cherry Red Records aged 19.
Ben Watt - Oran Mor, Glasgow
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Since the late 1990s, he’s also established himself as a dance music DJ, producer and record label runner, as well as writing an acclaimed memoir about his auto-immune illness. He’s recently taken an unexpected turn back into that abandoned solo career, with a short tour to try out new material. Still, he’s not entirely on his own, for while Thorn’s distinctive vocals are missing, he’s joined by the equally distinctive guitar of Bernard Butler.
The new songs’ tendency to mellow melancholy is not just middle-aged angst – Watt’s style was always wistful.
But many hark backwards, dwelling on regrets, old flames and his parents (inspired, apparently, by a forthcoming book he’s written about them). On Bricks And Wood, he finds his childhood home in ruins; Boars Hill is about his late father’s favourite dog-walking spot; others mention fields, trees, water and one is even in praise of spring.
Modestly thanking the audience for turning up, there’s a steeliness about Watt, too, as he insists that he’d rather play new songs to 200 people than revive the old hits for 2,000.
Yet while there are no EBTG tracks, he does play a couple fromthe back catalogue, with Walter And John and North Marine Drive sounding surprisingly in keeping with his current mood.