mon 04/03/2024

Nick Mulvey, Chalk, Brighton review - cult star shines bright | reviews, news & interviews

Nick Mulvey, Chalk, Brighton review - cult star shines bright

Nick Mulvey, Chalk, Brighton review - cult star shines bright

Singer-songwriter whips up ecstatic fervour with just a few guitars and a belief in better

Cool in the kaftan

Welcome to the church of Mulvey. The sold-out venue is packed with a svelte crowd, mostly ranging in age between about 30 and 45. Nick Mulvey is playing a new number which has an air of lockdown-inspiration about it, with its lines about “missing every one of you” and “feeling grace in solitude”.

The audience may not know the song, but they’re still in thrall, transported, a good few with eyes closed, hands reaching upwards as in evangelical service, swaying from side-to-side. One dark-bearded man and his guitar are held in esteem beyond the usual fandom.

Mulvey, long-ago in Portico Quartet, is here on the postponed tour for his most recent album, his third, last year’s New Mythology. The stage set-up is simple, Mulvey, clad in a blue, smock-ish shirt, done up to the collar, playing a variety of guitars, mostly acoustic, and next to him a table from which Spanish dub producer Toti Arimany, clad in a bright white cap, manipulates the sound and occasionally adds rhythmic pulsations.

Right from the start, when he appears out of darkness and plays “Begin Again”, his beautiful meditation on family, bloodlines and the passing of time, the atmosphere is uplifted, most of the crowd joining in, humming gently, singing the chorus, generating a sound that’s eerie, respectful and quietly potent. There are many women in the crowd. “Oh, he’s so lovely,” sighs one next to me, and there are supportive shouts of his name throughout.

Mulvey is a very 21st century hippy, a cosmonaut in synch with the ecology of the planet. His songs often have this theme buried in them. He dedicates one song to a Brighton friend, a healer whose aid to him via “breath work” renders her an angel in his eyes. He is given to cosmic pontificating. Grayson Perry, he tells us, says that “art is spirituality in drag”, which leads, after a brief ramble, to his pondering why “some patterns lose energy and some patterns gain energy”.

The patterns he makes with guitar are unique. They give his music real power, circular rhythms that combine Afro-Hispanic styles with something of classical minimalism. “Unconditional” is another sing-along, “Juramidam” is deconstructed, becoming a sparse piece in which there’s the suggestion that the Earth is our mother and we are her angels. However quiet he plays it, the room is rapt. He brings on his support act, the Indonesian singer and Ólafur Arnalds collaborator Sandrayati for a blissed-out chat about how much they understand each other, then she proves her worth by adding stunning extra layers of vocal gorgeousness to the song “Star Nation”.

If I have a quibble, aside from occasionally being overwhelmed by self-congratulatory Brighton-does-yoga piousness, it’s that I prefer these songs in fuller form, and that Arimany could maybe add more heft to them. Perhaps I’m missing the point as everyone seems hypnotized by their stripped-back state, but I’d have enjoyed more body to delicious cuts such as “Fever to the Form” and “Cucurucu”.

Mulvey makes an ecstatic “Brother to You” sound fatter, though, while both “Mona” and “Mecca” are, at once, mystic and prophetic, the former with its dream visitors issuing warnings and the latter with its line, “How we feel now was felt by the ancients/Yeah, all we want is to know this vivid moment.

The two song encore – three if we include the crowd singing happy birthday to Mulvey’s daughter Honey, while he films it - closes with one of his most powerful songs, “Mountain to Move”, a battle cry in our age of environmental collapse and spiritual lassitude. “Wake up now,” runs the chorus, “Wake up now.”

Mulvey’s worldview is easy to mock, as hippies always have been, a DMT-laced philosophy touched by the idea we are microscopic moments in a cosmic scheme, interconnected by love beyond time and space. That we should CARE, man. Easy to mock it may be, but I’ll take it a thousand times over our culture’s endemic, tedious and over-arching belief in money, material acquisition and solipsistic narcissism.

Below: Watch Nick Mulvey play "Brother to You" live

 

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