"As terrifying as this is, it's nice to be moaning again," reckoned Twilight Sad frontman James Graham, further capturing the ambivalence of his first post-pandemic gig by opening the set (after a couple of false starts) with Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave.
Clearly, the audience did want to be here to encourage Graham in his lyrical wallowing. The Twilight Sad (***) have done gigs in quadrophonic surround sound before but in contrast this stripped back performance for the Paisley Spree festival, involving just Graham, guitarist Andy MacFarlane and a drum machine, suffered a little from a uniformly dirge-like tone, whether performing their earliest tune That Summer, At Home I Had Become An Invisible Boy or Wedding Present cover Suck.
An impassioned acoustic Cold Days at the Birdhouse, plus versions of Daniel Johnston’s Walking the Cow and Frightened Rabbit’s Fast Blood were more dynamic and, for all his sardonic, self-deprecating chat, Graham was genuinely moved by the response to the set.
A few days earlier, the mood was generally mellower as Dundee-based singer/songwriter Roseanne Reid (****) delivered a set of subtle storytelling. Her soft testifying in gentle Americana style was an ideal warm-up for headliner Nick Lowe (*****) who hails from an older country tradition, Hank Williams via Notting Hill with some Tin Pan Alley-influenced classic pop nuggets to boot.
He ferreted out some neglected old numbers for his self-styled jukebox set, a delightful non-stop songfest pivoting between the sweet tenderness of his ballads, the beautifully rendered new old-fashioned gospel of Far Celestial Shore and the brazen Chuck Berryisms of I Knew the Bride.
His exquisite cover of the Dionne Warwick classic Heartbreaker was easily matched by a thoughtful version of his own What’s So Funny Bout Peace, Love and Understanding? and a glorious Alison, with the Paisley Abbey bells chiming in approval.
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