Kevin Devine, bathed in a warm orange glow, with only an acoustic guitar and mic as accompaniment on stage. That was the scene at the Green Door Store in Brighton. The warm orange glow was the result of the giant mood lights shinning on him by the way, not cause he was sick or anything…
This was only my second time seeing Kevin Devine play live. The first being with the Goddamn Band after the release of Between the Concrete and Clouds a couple of years ago; the group rocked King Tuts Wah Wah Hut that night. If you haven’t heard Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band play live, listen to Matter of Time: KD&GDB Tour EP 2012 below.
Without the backing of the band, you would be forgiven for thinking a solo acoustic performance might lack that same punch and raw sound.
If anything, without the ‘distraction’ of the full band, Devine’s songwriting and storytelling took centre stage. Read any of his lyrics old or new and you’ll find fully fleshed characters and detailed settings, each one a short story, all described within 4-5 minutes.
Launching into the normally punky and fast paced Bubblegum, Devine purposefully reconstructed the song giving a quieter rendition with a slower tempo to match. This calm approach set the tone for much of the night. Devine’s guitarmanship shone through as he adapted riffs such as the intro to Private First Class to suit the acoustic guitar.
While the songs may have been softer with the absence of an electric guitar or drums, the songs by no means lacked bite – this was provide by the vocals. Devine chose his moments carefully as he raspily yelled the words, often stepping back from the mic.
Halfway through the show, the DI wasn’t playing ball so Devine placed the mic stand to one side and performed the rest of the set unplugged. It’s funny how a simple action such as removing the mic can break the barrier between musician and audience.
Devine continued to delve through his impressive back catalogue ranging from A Story, A Sneek to Brooklyn Boy while a beautiful cover of The Biggest Lie by the singer’s favourite lyricist Elliot Smith was welcomed. There was also time for hilarious impressions of Morrissey and There Is A Light That Never Goes Out and an Olsen Twins gif of them on a catwalk (which I can’t find unfortunately!).
The highlight of the night for me was the penultimate song; a passionate performance of Brother’s Blood (one of my personal favourites). Slowly bubbling and building up, the song exploded with Devine giving everything he had in his lungs to yell the final verses. Contrast that to the quiet and gentle closing track Ballgame, another perfect example of Devine’s ability for storytelling.
Devine’s back with the Goddamn Band at the end of September/beginning of October supporting Manchester Orchestra on a UK tour!