Crunching through leaves towards the beautiful Manchester Cathedral, the scene may have been set for an appropriately delicate, even subdued show, but it was one that Nick Mulvey and his merry band had no intention of delivering.
Strolling onstage to booming cheers, Mulvey didn’t seem particularly down in the dumps about missing out on a Mercury award for his debut album First Mind the night before (if anyone ever really is, that is). Grinning and apologising for being “a bit tender”, the band then launched into a bunch of First Mind favourites that rollicked along as Mulvey’s unique concoction of Afro-Caribbean flamenco guitar filled the glorious space.
Mellow tracks from the record were given a new lease of life, with Fever To The Form and Juramidam surprisingly capable of a frenetic energy that bounced off the walls and echoed around the high ceilings. The crowd-pleasing Meet Me There proceeded to leave the girls swooning, their dutiful boyfriends trying – and pretty much all failing – not to do the same in the dimly-lit nave.
The seductive theme continued with a string of slow-burners, as The Trellis and Gillian Welch cover Look At Miss Ohio brought the audience back down to earth, before the band dropped Cucurucu to set off the first bona fide dance-along of the night.
But really, it was the encore that banished the crowd’s winter blues, and hopefully the band’s hangovers, with the 90’s dancefloor-infused Nitrous and Drake cover Just Hold On, We’re Going Home. Despite a slight sense of disappointment with the rest of the crowd that they didn’t spontaneously break into a slow grind round the sides of the altar, it might be best not to hold that against them.
But really, although acoustic sets and scenic backdrops go together hand in hand, what sets Mulvey apart from his contemporaries is both a sultriness and a sense of humour that haven’t yet been mustered by Flynn, Howard et al., and certainly never cropped up in any church sets I’ve seen before.
It might have been a stretch to expect everyone to get down where the pews should be, but if a folk singer managed to make my plus one slop some not-so-holy wine down herself and yelp an unironic, totally inappropriate, ‘Jesus Christ’, then I reckon that’s a job well done.