As decreed by his Brits Critics Choice Award win at the start of 2017, Rag’n’Bone Man aka Brighton rapper-turned-rhythm’n’blues man mountain Rory Graham is the breakthrough success story of the year so far.
ABC, Glasgow ***
He wasted no time showing off those mighty pipes – and attempting to establish some bluesy credentials – with a potent version of St James Infirmary Blues, accompanying himself on guitar before his band kicked in and the slick sheen of his current pop soul manifestation took over.
Graham’s natural instrument is undeniably impressive but he is still feeling his way as a performer, coming across as a shy bear of a man kept on a short leash, never truly letting rip from his gut. Despite the testifying whoops and handclaps of the capacity crowd, the rootsy southern soul of As You Are failed to deliver on its early promise and his global hit Human was dispensed with little fanfare.
Even Graham’s rapping was somewhat tame, although a taste of an earlier track, produced before the marketing men took over, revealed a moody, jazz-tinged sensibility, less likely to attract blanket airplay but with more sonic interest than the manicured sound of his debut album.
Generally, the more stripped-back numbers were the most impactful, such as piano ballad Odetta, which shared some of its DNA with Elton John’s emotive efforts from the 1970s, and his a capella take on the old standard In My Time Of Dying which provided the other blues bookend to an otherwise docile set.