Live Review: Thomas Cohen at Gullivers, Manchester, 22/05/16

 

Clad in all white, Thomas Cohen takes to the stage of Gullivers via the only route available to him; past his own merch stand and straight through the sparse Sunday night turn-out. With no backstage to find solace in and being within an arms-reach from the crowd, you could argue that if anything went wrong tonight, Cohen won’t have anywhere to hide.

Despite the lingering possibility of self-doubt striking or nerves getting the better of him,  you immediately get the sense that he enjoys and even relishes the situation at hand; the awkward silences between songs, the uncertainty of how the venue will accommodate the sound, the lack of Daily Mail journalists. A new-found obscurity and a chance to show people what he’s really about, Thomas Cohen decides to let the songs from his debut album, “Bloom Forever”, speak for him.

Due to the brilliant production that gives the songs on “Bloom Forever” a rich, rewardingly dense sound, I initially had some doubts over how Thomas Cohen and his band could do the songs justice in a live setting. However, almost immediately, any doubts I had were put to rest and the majority of the set sounded as close to the record as the venue, his backing band and their technical ability allowed. The guitar solo on “Bloom Forever” packs the same punch as it’s studio-counterpart, and the latter half of “Mother Mary” is just as overwhelming and mercurial as on record.

Strong melodies are plentiful throughout the set, with songs such as “Hazy Shades” and “New Morning Comes” both baring brilliant, happy-go-lucky choruses with sing-a-long moments that are (almost) wasted on the small crowd. Cohen introduces the introspective, heartfelt “Country House” by joking that ‘This is a song about butter’, breaking the ice in a charming way, assuring us all that we don’t have to avoid direct eye-contact during the song. Tackling the death of Peaches, and the aftermath of such tragedy so head-on, gives the songs a brutally honest feel that is only amplified further when seeing the songs performed in the flesh.

The penultimate song of the set, a terrific cover of Patti Smith’s “Pissing In A River” is arguably one of the set’s highlights, due to it’s raw power that allows the band to come out of their comfort zone that little bit more, and it’s incredibly exciting to watch. Also, I don’t think anyone in the venue saw it coming, at all, which added to the already pleasing spectacle. Maybe a sonic direction that Cohen’s next album could possibly take a step-in?

Even though the end of the gig marks the end of Thomas Cohen’s first solo tour, a new chapter of his musical career is only just starting. Songs about love, grief, hope, and even brands of butter, Thomas Cohen’s live show has a song or two for all of us.

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