Sam Duckworth aka Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly stands with his fringe soaked in sweat beaming like a Cheshire cat. He has just finished wowing the crowd with a rousing version of I Spy. The sleek and soulless Bristol Academy 2 has been well and truly rocked. Its low ceiling and black interior alive with the glistening faces of a hundred plus happy punters.
The performance had started slightly aimlessly. The last two tracks that had pounded out of PA before he took the stage were The Clash's Train in Vain and Rock the Casbah. Whether it was statement of intent by Duckworth or a stitch up by the sound engineer, it's a fairly difficult pair of songs to follow.
Duckworth, augmented by a small band, opened with the leading two tracks from The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager. It felt as if he was sizing up the crowd and that they were assessing him. A punk rock folk singer signed to a major label. Was he for real? Did he believe, did he have the drive and commitment?
Well over 180 gigs in the past year strikes me as committed. From the arse end of nowhere to festival Stages, the boy just wants to play. Lean, taut and punching hard, this was a focused and sharp gig. He and his band are in fighting form. Much has been made of Duckworth’s politics and today he didn't shy away from attacking apathy, consumerism and racism. Yet much like Billy Bragg before the miners strike, the politics are personal more than party political. It's a humanist stance that he believes in.
It seemed to gel well with the audience apart from the three twats in front of me who seemed to have wandered into the wrong gig. I think they where looking for Prince Harry’s girlfriend. To mock someone for their anti consumerism stance is okay if you have no soul. To openly joke about anti-racism is stupid, dumb and not something you should air in public unless you want a slap. The version of Glass Houses that follows burns with righteous passion
Live, Duckworth's material had rougher edges. His vocals are pleasantly ragged, his voice becoming an emotional rasp. The energy levels never waned despite monitors being climbed and Duckworth dashing around the small stage with his acoustic guitar in hand. His love/hate relationship with his native Southend is laid bare in a mainly acoustic reading of Lighthouse Keeper. The desire to escape his McJob future written large in the way he bellowed: "Although the arcades shine bright, they don't have the glow of the city lights." These songs seem to have been torn from his psyche.
The singles lifted from the LP provide the crowd with a host of sing along moments. I Spy is the Wonderwall dynamic stripped to its bones and rewritten for the No Logo generation. Call Me Ishamel takes flight, the crowd embracing the song like a long lost friend. The band come back and encore with a cover of the Steve Miller Band's Abracadabra and it brings the house down. Welcome to the world of Southend’s own musical superhero. Catch him before he soars up to much bigger venues.