Nigel & Day
19 January 2024
Gustaffson played their biggest gig to date at Manchester’s Night & Day last night, more than ably supported by a solo Chris Bridgett. Nigel reviews with pics by Phil Portus.
Chris is a regular around these parts, popping up in the most unlikely of places, putting his heart and soul into every performance. From Dub Sex to Cold Water Swimmers, via a brief stint with The G-O-D. (Read Wayne Carey’s excellent interview with him here), Chris is the spiritual voice of a city that has adopted him a one of their own.
He plays a career spanning set (“why shouldn’t I? I wrote them all”, he told me beforehand) covering tracks recorded with all his incarnations. Highlight, ‘Summer Breeze’ is literally spat into the mic – ‘You know I was a junkie for 15 years, could have took a bath in my mother’s tears’ – punchy and emotional, sung from the heart – he means it, he really means it! Chris debuts new songs, including the emotional The Big Sleep (“It’s about loss and bereavement. I probably shouldn’t play it in public really. Fuck it!”), from his forthcoming album, interspersed with older more familiar tracks. For one man, on his own with just a guitar, he completely smashes it, even managing to silence a few audience members who think they’ve come to chat loudly with their mates, rather than focus on the acts they’ve paid to see!
I’ve seen Chris play many times over the years, but I’ve never seen him put so much emotional energy into his set. I guess, freed from the responsibility of guiding other members of the band, he can focus on the energy – the scintillating love-buzz and frisson that courses through his performance. A joy to watch, with genuine appreciation from the gathering crowd.
I’ve seen Gustaffson a few times too, but not like this. After playing the 100 Club in London back in November, they’ve been holed up with Elbow’s Craig Potter at Blueprint Studios, working on the first album. A few hushed details have leaked out; backing singers, a string section, working late into the night, and if the tracks we hear tonight are anything to go by it could be the surprise hit of 2024. We’ll have to wait a while though (as frontman Andy Gower told me), mastering, engineering, and manufacturing will push the release back towards September, with new singles being dropped along the way.
Gustaffson (named after Andy’s great-great grandmother) open with their last single Champagne Socialist, focusing on the Liberal elite. The charismatic singer, with the voice of an angel, has an innate ability to duck and dive through his lyrics, popping lines in where you wouldn’t expect them, wrapping his tonsils around complicated phrasing and structures that only a song’s writer could achieve. Slow ballads like Go Easy, Night People and Flowers sound fresh and original, and when they really go for it, on The Jacaranda, with its jazz/funk influences and the rockier Underground, they prove what a powerhouse of a unit they really are. Each member, a virtuoso on their instrument, Webbo’s guitar licks, Dave Gleave’s intricate basslines, Liam’s funky piano and Graham’s rock-star drumming – big smiles and spinning sticks!
Bangers permeate the set – tracks that you can lose yourself in. They are far from my usual diet of post-punk and extreme electronica, but there’s no doubting the skill that has gone into these pieces, from the lush arrangements to the intricate storytelling that goes into every lyric.
Andy’s delivery is special – his explanations of the band’s journey, the story behind each song, the lithe and sinuous movements around the stage, snaking, arms outstretched, the twist of a hand – as one with the beat, punctuating every word – lost in his own special dance.
Gustaffson end their set with what has (quickly) become their signature track, Northern Baby. It rises, arches and falls, propelled by a thunderous beat – an unstoppable pantechnicon of a track that you just don’t want to end – “you won’t believe the stars, until you’ve seen the stars in Manchester” – and frankly, I think I just did!
Catch the band live if you can. They will be performing throughout 2024 and may pop up at the odd festival as well!
Gustaffson are on Facebook & Twitter and this is their website
This is Andrew Gower’s Facebook and this is his website: http://www.andrew-gower.co.uk/
Photos by Phil Portus. Words by Nigel Carr. More writing by Nigel on Louder Than War can be found in his Author’s archive. You can find Nigel on Twitter and Facebook
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