– YES, Manchester –

William Doyle

William Doyle

I’m looking forward to this. I’m looking forward to it a lot. William Doyle (FKA East India Youth, pseudonym fans) released one of my (and now one of The Quietus’) favourite albums of the year back in March, the superb ‘Great Spans of Muddy Time’, and I’ve been waiting to see him perform it live ever since. It’s a genuine stunner, maybe quite unassuming at first, but it grew to consume me, particularly when accompanying me on lockdown walks. It’s slightly melancholic, baroque pop and shimmering electronic passages making for an engrossing listen. And so this carries through to Doyle on stage in Yes’ tiny basement, this unassuming man immediately grabbing the busy crowd’s attention and guiding them through a thrilling set of melodic, gorgeous, sometimes banging art-pop.

The opening one-two is an almighty sucker punch, reducing me to a grinning, tears-in-the-eyes mess from the off. It’s the opening two songs from Great Spans, the utterly sublime ‘I Need To Keep You In My Life’, Doyle’s voice plain, clear and pure over the gently arpeggio synth line, the beautiful lyrics soaring through the basement air (has there been a more beautiful opening to a song than “I need to keep you in my life / to keep an image of you in my mind / of driving in twilight, over Pennines” this year? No, no there hasn’t). Its repeated end refrain of “I need to keep you in my life” segues into the second song from the album, ‘And Everything Changed (But I Feel Alright)’, another proper, stop-you-in-your-tracks stunner, its squealing end guitar solo an absolute treat, Doyle contorting his guitar in to electrifying shapes and sounds. It’s quite the start. It’s quite the show already.

On ‘Nothing At All’, Doyle is a verbose calypso crooner; on East India Youth track ‘Hearts Go On’ he’s a Cut Copy-esque synth pop master, turning the basement in to a thumping Monday night club; on the bewitching encore ‘Carousel’ he’s a slow-core balladeer; he wears many hats and they all seem to fit perfectly. That he’s doing all this solo, surrounded by synths, a laptop, and his trusty guitar, is all the more impressive – close your eyes and it could be a full band (ok, maybe except for the programmed drums…). I always worry that albums I love that are released early on in the year, even those like Great Spans that are released to universal acclaim, will be forgotten about by the time album of the year lists roll round. That it’s made the top 5 of The Quietus’ impressive list fills my heart with joy; people haven’t forgotten. How could they, such a brilliant piece of art as it is, and this (now) hometown show (Doyle recently moved to Manchester) is the victory lap he richly deserves. I hope many more people discover this fine album and his fine back catalogue as he appears on end of year lists – he should be playing to more people than this.

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