‘Silent Sigh’ is one of the most beautiful songs written in the last 20 years and I am giddy with excitement as Damon Gough, AKA Badly Drawn Boy, sits down at the piano to play those first celestial notes. The mood is tempered, somewhat, by the fact Damon has just had a slanging match with a member of the audience about the more temporal issue of Wayne Rooney’s mooted move away from Old Trafford. Various comments pass backwards and forwards about Rooney resembling human faecal material who wouldn’t even be welcome to grace the pitch at Damon’s beloved Eastlands and that said audience member needed to get back down the M1, pronto, to London… where all the other Man Utd fans live.

Suddenly the salubrious banked seating of the Royal Northern College of Music transmogrifies into a football terrace and I have half a worry it’s going to proper kick off. Then BDB (as opposed to MUFC or MCFC) sits down and plays Silent Sigh straight through and it is as impossibly gorgeous as ever, as if nothing had happened.

It’s only one of several contradictory, buckling moments during the night. Damon is strangely self-deprecating (and says as much himself). He will get to the new album ‘It’s What I’m Thinking Part I’ in a while, he tells us early on, but has to play the old “shit” songs first. And he does indeed pile through tracks from his first two albums and the soundtrack ‘About A Boy’, accompanying himself on guitar and keys, and yet the quality of those “shit” songs positively shines through the darkness of this autumnal Mancunian night.

Other examples: he fesses up to a lack of technical ability and indeed has to stop one or more songs and start up again; and when he is joined by his band it looks like the maths club of the local comprehensive has ended early. However the songs remain as warm and deep and mellow and urbane as ever they were. And when he’s joined on stage by his daughter, singing and playing the piano, it’s a genuinely special moment.

He says his earlier songs sound “sad” to him now, yet it’s the songs from the new album that are darker, bleaker, like some serious stuff has been happening in BDB Land. Indeed, after singing some of the newer songs, and experiencing a few technical issues, Damon leaves the stage completely – to have a fag, he says to the crowd – but evidently to get his head back together. It’s a hometown gig for BDB even though he himself feels compelled to add he’s actually from Bolton. That just about sums up the contrary nature of the evening.

All in all a strange, contradictory night of fabulous music, chaotic presentation and simmering anger. To be honest, in a world of slick, PR-rinsed artists it’s quite refreshing to be involved with such an organic and unpredictable concert. Quite what is going on underneath Badly Drawn Boy’s beanie, however, is up for debate. Certainly the audience leaves pondering the subject Damon has raised himself with his new album: just what, exactly, Badly Drawn Boy is thinking. Maybe the answer will come in parts II and III…

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…