5 May 2016

Shakey Graves @ The Institute (live review)

Shakey Graves came out alone to a raucous reception in the smallest room of the O2 Institute, with a wry smile and a swig out of a polystyrene cup before jokingly telling a member of the audience with an especially piercing whistle to 'go fuck yourself'. This set the tone of the evening, Shakey's relaxed style and ease with the audience, it was like watching a friend perform. The intimacy of the show was intense as he told us the stories behind his songs with warmth and sincerity, batting of the energy of the roocm with buckets of charm. He'd laugh along with the crowd make jokes at his own expense, and get call and responses going, clearly enjoying every moment of his time on stage.

The energy of the night was high, with Shakey chopping and changing the tempo of his songs, darting this way and that in the most interesting way, it kept you on your toes, never quite sure where his raspy vocals or the music was heading. He performed as a one-man-band, with guitars surround him, a kick drum fashioned from an old suitcase and a keyboard beside him, playing everything expertly. It was such a display of musicianship, it was a joy to watch, the skill with which he plays his guitar is somewhat mind-blowing.

The mood took dips and dives, going from the slow romance of Chinatown into the more upbeat Pansy Waltz before jumping into tracks like The Perfect Parts with relentless energy and style.  He played such a variety of tracks, older stuff like Proper Fence as well as new tracks from And The War Came, showing how diverse his back catalogue is. You can be my Esme, he said to the crowd before starting Dearly Departed, when the crowd sang her parts of the duet, ending in an interesting duet. Walking off the stage to chants of 'Shakey Graves!' he was soon back to play his final song, Built To Roam. It's a struggle to describe the atmosphere of a Shakey Graves gig, he's indescribably good. It's one of those gigs that you need to process for a while after it happens, just to appreciate what you've seen.

Watching Shakey play, it's obvious how much what he is doing means to him, he's full of unbridled passion and creativity, which he reins in just the right amount to play with a raw vulnerability that he obviously has full control over. Musicians like Shakey Graves are so important, he makes his music highly available to people, once a year in February he makes his music available online for pay what you like for a couple of days, so fans can donate and download or download for free.

He's a stupidly talented musician, and seems like a genuinely lovely guy, who'd be lots of fun to have a drink with. It was an honour to watch, and be a part of the evening, I'd like to thank him for doing what he does in the way that he does it. His show was something like I've not seen before, it was something magic, you could see how much fun everyone was having. There was nothing of a routine about the show, it felt like every Shakey  show would be individual and unique, which is something pretty special. If I could be a fraction of the person, or musician, he is, I'd be very happy indeed.

Words: Rachel Tindall