Nick Mulvey

Nick Mulvey


What a magical thing it is to hold a room like the Albert Hall in the very palm of your very hand.  To own the eyes and ears of everyone present.  To fill this cavernous room with a sound constructed entirely from your voice and six strings stretched over some wood, containing the air necessary to make those strings resonate.  Nick Mulvey does that.

There is a relationship, a tension between artist and audience, that builds over the evening.  When Mulvey steps onto the stage, dressed down in denim, hirsute, lithe, a beatnik with an acoustic, it had all the makings of a grand busk at dusk.  By the time he launches into the glorious ‘Fever To The Form’ – beefed up for the live experience, punchier, chunkier – the crowd return the love as though batting it back.  ‘Fever To The Form’ was one of my favourite tracks of 2014.  Mulvey’s debut album, First Mind, the subject of a Mercury Prize nod, weren’t too shabby neither.  It was also subject of a class discussion at the University of Chester, where I head up the Music Journalism degree.  Mulvey lost out on the Mercury Prize but he also got the love from my class, as I recall.

Mulvey is no stranger to the Mercury Prize.  Formerly part of the Portico Quartert, they were also nominated for the prize in 2008.  The move to go solo is understandable as Mulvey has an obvious desire to integrate different moods into his music.  The guy studied in Havana ferchrissakes and I can even now imagine him on the Malacon, drinking rum and jamming in the shadow of the Hotel Nacional.  I honeymooned at that hotel and even thinking back to those days, and that music, brings back the heady aroma of cigars, warm evenings and guitars.

Albert Hall is packed and they are up for it – proper up for it like a rock gig – when here the only distorted note is the price of the medicine.  What Mulvey manages to achieve is a kind of auteur guitar sound you only usually get by plugging the thing into an amp, via a bank of a kigillion effects pedals.  The precise Spanish-style strumming on a cut like ‘April’, the Floyd-esque roll of the riff on ‘Alisa Craig’, and the elegant picking on ‘Venus’ almost defines a sound that is his alone, hitting harmonics on ‘Juramidem’ like skittles down the fret, a perfect track with which to open the set.

Over the course of the night the soft, supine tracks of the album come to life, rendered 3D by the energy of the music, of the live experience, the stage contained within the vertical beams of light on the stage, like illuminated cell bars.  And then there’s the venue – gorgeous and frayed. Warm acoustics.  At one point it looks like a beam of light has cut through the church-like windows, bestowing celestial light.  It’s a spotlight, of course.  Blame the Tuborg.

Mulvey tells us he loves us in this city and I think he means it.  Fuck it, he definitely means it.  Well he says he means it.  It feels like he means it.  Yeah he means it.  He launches into one after another of the tracks from First Mind, including the eponymous opener; ‘Cucrucu’ (which becomes a proper sing along) and, of course, the ever gorgeous ‘Fever To The Form’.  The urbane sound – from a band that includes drums, keys, bass and cello and a female backing singer who also plays ukulele – fills the space like a warm fog.  What is perhaps more exceptional still is the moment when the band leave Mulvey on his own – no where to run – just a man and a wooden box of air.  And unlike Dylan over the road at the Free Trade Hall, it was always acoustic for old Nick.

So don’t let the folk frippery deceive.  Yes there are nods to the bearded hipster nouveau ale community and the Mumfordian aesthetic but then there is ‘Nitrous’; and its nod to Olive’s ’96 rave anthem ‘You’re Not Alone’.  Tell you what… that gets ‘em swinging their knickers round their ears.

We live, it seems, in the age of the singer-writer.  Nick’s not alone.

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Simon is a writer, broadcaster and countercultural investigator. Over the last 15 years he has written for everyone from The Guardian to Loaded magazine, presented television for Rapture TV and hosted radio programs for the likes of Galaxy. He has also found time to earn a Masters Degree in Novel Writing and write three books (a collection of journalism, a guidebook to Ibiza and one on financial planning for young people – the most varied publishing career it’s possible to have) and establish and run a PR company, Pad Communications, looking after a range of leisure and lifestyle clients.He currently splits his time between researching his PhD at Leeds University, looking into various countercultural movements; consulting freelance for PR clients; writing for the likes of Marie Claire in Australia, The Big Issue and the Manchester Evening News, where he reviews concerts, theatre and is their Pub & Bar Editor. He is also broadcaster, appearing regularly on Tony Livesey’s late night 5Live show for the BBC, and also for BBC Radio Manchester Gourmet Night food and drink show.Simon’s main focus has been music and travel. His career has included editing Ministry of Sound’s magazine in Ibiza for two summers and also writing two long-running columns for DJmagazine – ”Around The World in 80 Clubs” (which took him everywhere from Beijing to Brazil, Moscow to Marrakech) and “Dispatches From The Wrong Side”. A collection of the latter was published in the UK and US as the book Discombobulated, including tales as varied as gatecrashing Kylie Minogue’s birthday party, getting deported from Russia, having a gun held to his head by celebrity gangster Dave Courtney and going raving in Ibiza with Judith Chalmers. He has recently written for the likes of Red magazine, Hotline, Clash, Tilllate, Shortlist and the Manchester Evening News. Pad Communications has recently consulted for clients as varied as Manchester nightclubs and New Zealand toy companies.On a personal note, Simon is a Londoner who left the capital at the age of 18 and never looked back. He sees himself as a citizen of the global dancefloor having lived in Sydney, Los Angeles, Ibiza and Amsterdam. However his life is now rather more sedentary. After all his adventures he bumped into and subsequently married his highschool sweetheart from their North London Grammar. They now live in Stockport with their four children and four chickens, trying to live the good life. Simon recently turned 40 and is steadfastly refusing to have a midlife crisis – as in, growing a ponytail and buying a shiny red sports car.OK, maybe he’ll buy the sports car…