Last time markontour had the pleasure of catching John Bramwell at the Union Chapel he’d lost his front teeth and was singing with a lisp. A year later and our hero has his dentures back, although the set-list still seems to have been scrawled on the back of an envelope in the pub a few minutes before coming on stage and there are numerous pauses while he delves deep to remember which of three guitars is needed for which song. Apparently. It is hard to tell where the show stops and the real-life semi-functioning alcoholic musical savant begins. Nevermind, it’s a wonderfully entertaining night for us lucky audience members and Bramwell himself seems like the happiest person in the congregation.
Happy but immune to convention, so Bramwell gets the old ‘I Am Kloot’ favourites out of the way early in the set, leaving plenty of time to get stuck into promoting his new album. This may have been by accident or design: according to the singer “we weren’t supposed to start like this, but I was in the Compton Arms with a faulty timepiece”. But it’s a good choice as the new stuff is sizzling with ideas, even if the singer points out that some of them are very similar to ideas he had for previous songs.
Time seems to be on Bramwell’s mind. He notes more than once that the allotted hour and forty minutes is a long slog on stage and he doesn’t want to miss last orders and a possible lock-in. Perhaps that’s why the pub-prepared set-list only contains enough songs an hour and twenty minutes. But, in any case, banter and comedy re-tuning amply fills the gaps.
Plus the songs are just so good. Indeed, Bramwell is so pleased with some of his new lyrics that he repeats the best lines to make sure we’ve clocked them, not least: “I hesitate / I meditate / I turn my mind off and levitate”. The catchy ‘Who is anybody?” gains quite a considerable mulling over, long after the final bar has faded away, and markontour at least is starting to be convinced that this is quite a profound statement, until Bramwell’s gleeful cackle breaks the moment.
Who is anybody anyway? I don’t rightly know, but I’m pretty sure John Bramwell is a furry pot of musical magic, and that’ll do for now.