Live review: M Ward

30 Jul

M Ward played at Rescue Rooms on Sunday 28 June 2009

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

I have a confession to make: before last night I wasn’t a fan of M Ward. In fact I’d heard very little of his music and was only going because a friend of mine convinced me he was great, and subsequently didn’t turn up. So I arrived at Rescue Rooms with more than a mild feeling of trepidation at having heard only a few songs (none of which particularly knocked me out) and not knowing any song names, album titles or even what the guy looked like. But my worries were quickly whipped away by a coursing wind of gravelly vocals and crunching Americana.

M Ward

You can tell a lot about an artist from the attitude of their audience and honestly I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more dedicated crowd of adoring fans. However, with his energy, passion and sheer talent this adoration is actually very well deserved.

He played a varied set, starting off with the backing of a full band, but such was his musical modesty that I couldn’t work out which one was him for the first song or two. I befriended a super-fan at the bar who told me the song that had me stomping along like a nutter was a fuzzed-up rendition of Fool Says, a crushing mix of uplifting lyrics and bitter cynicism. His music has tinges of blues and country – but not in the way that makes me want to punch most country musicians in the face.

This initial burst of excitement was followed by a middle interlude of solo acoustic songs that began with a stirring cover of David Bowie’s Lets Dance that stilled the heart of every person there and was enjoyed in reverent, hushed silence. From there he played through a selection of heart-wrenching numbers, showing off his inimitable way with words and his beautifully pure yet growling voice.

After welcoming back his band, they closed the show with a second set of foot-stamping, jubilation-brewing stompers that sent the crowd nuts and left everyone, myself included, feeling satisfied, electrified and energised.

For a gig that I felt no excitement for beforehand I left feeling ecstatically in love with music, and with respect for an artist that had thrown my misconceptions under an all-American 18-wheeler and reminded me how brilliant it is to sometimes be wrong.

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