Even two years ago, I doubt Andy Bull – singer, songwriter, pianist – would have envisaged his live show commencing with a synthesised percussive pulse and a smoke machine (about which he was positively beaming). Nevertheless, it is 2015, and that is exactly how last Saturday night’s performance began.
Just One Expression, Just One Line – the song to which the aforementioned percussive pulse belongs – is perhaps the clearest representation of Bull’s musical rite of passage. Piano chords eventually join a more urgent rhythm alongside his lilting vocals. Live, the impact of this is phenomenal. The song builds to a crescendo of warbling synth and astonishing high notes, ensuring that the crowd is well and truly prepared for the set ahead of them.
Between 2010’s whimsical, waltzing Phantom Pains EP and 2013’s comeback single, Keep On Running, Andy Bull’s whole persona seemed to change. Themes of reflection – not pain and depression – now dominate his material, while percussion and synthesiser have become the unwavering foundations of his soundscape, providing a constant anchor for what will always be the centrepiece of his work – his voice.
Baby I Am Nobody Now – sung with just a hint of irony in the wake of his recent success – and Dog elicited the best response from an otherwise subdued crowd. ‘You guys are so fucking quiet,’ Bull remarked mid-set. ‘Somebody say something!’
Cries of ‘Get your dick out!’ ensued, much to the band’s amusement. ‘I thought you guys were here for the music,’ Bull laughed. ‘I guess the joke’s on me.’
His 2011 Like a Version – a cover of Tears for Fears’ Everybody Wants to Rule the World – made another welcome appearance, preceded in jest by the intro to Smells Like Teen Spirit. Talk Too Much wrapped up the set, but an encore of Something I Guess and the long-awaited Keep On Running was the real finish to another stellar performance.