Review and photography by John Bentley

Barry Adamson

While long acclaimed as an accomplished musician and composer, Barry Adamson has usually been seen lurking at the back of the stage, as bass guitarist with Magazine and as keyboards / bass player with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. However, tonight Barry reveals himself as an imposing singer, frontman and bandleader, as he treats Manchester to a rare live performance, featuring his new album ‘Know Where to Run’.

First on stage at The Deaf Institute is The Bear Around Your Neck, not a band but Manchester-based singer-songwriter Nathaniel Scott. His acoustic guitar seems to have a strange tuning from which he produces an interesting distorted and percussive psych-blues sound, while he sings in a high, Robert Plant-type, voice. Listening to his recorded music, where he performs in a multi-instrument band format, his songs (such as ‘Pearls’) sound rather different: his stripped-down live solo-acoustic performance is strangely other-worldly and original.

The Bear Around Your Neck

For Barry Adamson this is a special evening, as Manchester is his home town and was the base for his first successful band, Magazine, with whom he played bass and co-wrote many of the songs. Since his 1980s stint with The Bad Seeds, Adamson has concentrated on solo albums and film soundtracks. His early albums had a film-noire quality, reflecting composers like John Barry and Ennio Morricone, while his more recent work includes jazz, electronica, soul and funk influences. Barry’s music defies categorisation and he is certainly a polymath.

Barry Adamson

Accompanied by his four-piece band, Barry Adamson takes the stage in a rather fetching purple crushed velvet suit. He is obviously very happy to be back in Manchester and is raring to go. First up is a new song, ‘Up in the Air’, from his new album, which provides the material for half of the set tonight. The new album, as well as tonight’s gig, is one which concentrates on songs and Barry’s singing, rather than the filmic soundscapes for which many of his records are known. There’s some great songs from the album performed this evening, such as ‘Come Away’, ’Death Takes a Holiday’ and ‘Claw and Wing’. He steers clear of some of the more instrumental pieces on the new record, although a strong jazz-soul-noire mood is maintained throughout. We also get a selection of songs from his other albums spread through the set, including ‘Civilisation’ and two other numbers from 2008’s ‘Back to the Cat’.

Barry Adamson

For most of the gig Barry sings and gyrates centre-stage. Only for a few songs does he sit at the piano and he leaves the bass guitar playing to band member Iain Ross. “Great bass player”, someone calls out and Barry agrees. There is obviously some expectation that Barry might pick up the bass at some point, but he doesn’t.

What comes over throughout the evening is just how good a singer Barry really is. He has a powerful voice, and he’s a soulful crooner or a sensitive balladeer according to the needs of the song. He’s also very confident, sharp-witted and his banter is just hilarious. Along with his natty dress sense, Barry obviously learnt quite a few things about stagecraft from his times with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Barry Adamson

As the set comes to an end, the hall dissolves into laughter as a wag in the audience shouts “You’ve only done an hour, you workshy bastard”. There’s Manchester wit for you. The band emerge after a short break for the encore. Barry reflects briefly on the passing of Bowie and his influence and then the band launches into ‘Jazz Devil’, which uses the riff from the Bowie-Iggy Pop composition ‘Nightclubbing’. It’s then that Baz has his playful revenge on the heckler, as he changes the lyric of ‘Jazz Devil’ and sings “you can call me workshy bastard double-0 666”. Touché!

We finish with a great slow version of “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”, the Sly and the Family Stone funk track that Barry originally recorded with Magazine, with our Baz doing some impressive high register singing. Thanks for a great evening, Barry. Come back to Manchester soon.

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