Live Review

Carl Barat, Manchester, Academy 2

The energy for the old is balanced by genuine interest in hearing new songs.

On ‘The Magus’, Carl Barat sings ‘Men can be animals, savages and cannibals’ and warns ‘Keep your wits about you’ll see the cabaret.’ A song that’s about as foreboding as it is theaterical, this proves to be a perfect opener for a setlist that trades on a variety of musical styles (from Eastern European folk to shouty indie punk) but thoroughly entertains at all times.

Stomping around with his trademark leather jacket and hair falling over his eye, Carl not only looks but sounds the part of his former-Libertine-self and with a mumble to Manchester to say ‘How you doing?,’ he’s away with his guitar for ‘Run With The Boys’, the Jam-reminiscent lead single from his solo album (aka ‘The One With The Self-Mirror Photo’).

The highlights of the night naturally come in the form of past glories, particularly the early inclusion of ‘The Man Who Would Be King’, ‘Bang Bang, You’re Dead’ and ‘Time For Heroes’, but the energy on the floor for the old is balanced by genuine delight and interest in hearing the new songs; written by Carl Barat and Carl Barat only.

Both ‘The Magus’ and ‘The Fall’ provide the ethnic rhythms and Dickensian wit where the thespian-side of Barat aids his transition from greased rock n roller to a cross-breed of Harold Steptoe and Fagan. Other touching moments are ‘Carve My Name’, with its mournful tone and sinister lyrics about a womanising Jack The Ripper of Hearts, who carves his name on the livers of his lovers, and a simple but sweet slice of romantic acoustic pop on ‘She’s Something’. Elsewhere he proves he can sound as sexy as Gainsbourg singing in French (the forlorn ‘What Have I Done’) but with an endearing naivety (Je Regrette, Je Regrette) where he recalls ‘I’m a wretch I’m a wretch… a tosser at a stretch’ and twitters something about ‘angry birds.’ The addition of a female cellist/vocalist intensifies the emotion and euphoria of the major key changes for the stage and Carl’s guitarist brother Olly acts as good stand in as any for the other Freewheelin’ guitarist we like to see by Carl’s side.

Leaving for a premature encore, in which he plays a set almost as long as the first, Carl Barat’s solo show reminds Manchester tonight while we all came out in the first place: to see a man with presence, charm and wit and by gum, the tunes. King Carlos still rules.

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