Jeffrey LewisEdit this event
- Troxy, London »
Night's settling in by the time the touts start circulating outside. They mostly seem to be buying, and not selling. That hints towards a sell out, or near as, and that goes to show you the love and esteem Daniel Johnston is held in. This show wasn't on sale that long. Inside, and the Troxy is beginning to fill up. As a venue, it's a pleasing East End cavern, offering discounted, second hand glamour. From the black and white photos of golden age movie stars that lead in from the foyer to the reconditioned art deco interior, there's a feel of faded extravagance. The matching deco themed carpet has seen better days, and the whole place has the air of a bingo hall about it; it isn't hard to imagine the smell of sweat and the roaring of the crowd from the cage fights they've staged here.
I get in, buy drinks, head to the rail, and stay there for the entire show. Three sets, one by Jeffrey Lewis, one from Daniel, and one from a band who introduced themselves twice but who were almost completely unmemorable. They said they were from Belgium, and that would seem entirely believable. They trudge through a longer than it seemed forty minute set, outstay their welcome in the name of proficiency, and leave. They had a girl singing with them, a blonde girl... No, nothing. Who were they?
After they leave the stage, Jeffrey Lewis takes a long time to set up. Already running late, there's been a problem with a pedal. The sound man does a little light gesticulating, and visibly mouths a couple of choice obscenities when he turns from the stage. But it gets fixed fast enough, and with his stickered guitar picking up the UV nicely, he's finally off. And for someone who has always always seemed very low key, it turns out that after many years of live performance, Jeff knows how to work a crowd. He's a charmer and a talker, and a natural on the stage. We get gangsta rap tales of being a Mosquito murderer, his full life history wrapped up in three and a half minutes and a new song (with comic book slide accompaniment) about Sitting Bull that just blows the crowd away. He goes down so well that he squeezes in a request after getting the one song warning from the sound guy, and he takes it 'just to piss him off'. No mutual Christmas cards there then. But Jeffrey has the last laugh, and wins a lot of fans tonight. If playing a gig had an equivalent in Dungeons and Dragons, he would have just gone up a level.
Daniel Johnston was the name that sold these tickets, though. As he whips through a mini set with just a tiny guitar, warmth emanates towards him from the crowd. He's reached the status beyond that of performer now, and is designated Beloved Treasure. Even with the occasional bum note and voice cracking desperately, or maybe even because of them, he can do no wrong. But when the BEAM orchestra join him, he benefits from having people to share the limelight with, and bizarrely, the whole show takes a turn towards Jazz. Everything becomes a professional, toe-tapping Bond theme. Everything gets the ensemble push. 'Walking the Cow' is unrecognizable, but utterly brilliant. 'Fake Records of Rock and Roll' gets the sax treatment you never knew it needed. It's only when the night draws to a close when requests make you realise what hasn't been played. No 'King Kong'. No 'Casper', although it gets yelled for so many times, it's impossible to ignore its absence. 'True Love Will Find You In the End' closes tonight, and with the lights coming up, the crowd sings along quietly and reverently. Everyone will miss him until he returns.
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