Do you ever feel so scared that you hold your breath waiting…hoping…for whatever it is that’s scaring you to pass by without doing you any harm? Well, that’s the kind of feeling I get watching Malcolm Holcombe play live. However many times I’ve seen him he still makes my insides churn because I never know just what he’s going to do next…
I want to say that he sits on a chair but he doesn’t really sit on it, he rocks back and forth, side to side almost never using all four chair legs to balance on, yet somehow he never topples over. I want to say that he plays his acoustic guitar, which of course he does, but he attacks it as if he’s beating the life out of it. I want to say that he sings but his voice veers from a rasping growl to a languorous vocal and anywhere in between. One moment he’s like a man possessed, frightening in his intensity and the next he breaks out into the sweetest of smiles and then HE SNAPS A FEW WORDS OUT shaking you to your core. He’s a man of many contradictions. He’s certainly lived life; it has included drink, drugs and hell raising but he’s been sober for some years and now lives a simple, spiritual life with wife Cyndi and son Jesse, in North Carolina.
Over the years he’s been a regular visitor to Brighton (Hove actually, this time) so has built a loyal following. Tonight’s show was pretty well attended; the pub closed its doors to the public so everyone in the venue was there to witness Holcombe do what he does best – scare us, thrill us, mesmerise us, captivate us, restore us, respect us, thank us and leave us wanting more.
He mined his back catalogue (nine albums) dipping in to his first major label release 1999’s A HUNDRED LIES (there’s another story there too!) for a couple of songs which were the title track and Who Carried You, as well as road testing some songs which will be on the new album PITIFUL BLUES scheduled for an August 2014 release. I am already looking forward to that!
Holcombe inhabits his songs with such passion that he must be exhausted after each show – he spits and dribbles, he shakes his head as if he’s rattling his brain, he closes his eyes, he stares fixedly and takes his audience on a roller coaster of a ride. He writes memorably and has a keen ability to pair the lyrics with exactly the right melody – he’s literate and musical and once seen, never forgotten!
Holcombe doesn’t say a great deal between songs; he often plays three or four songs in sequence commanding the room to attention with his sheer presence. Cheers and applause broke out regularly from the audience and as he closed the set with a new song For the Love of a Child all that could be heard afterwards were cries of ‘One more! One more!’
He obliged us with A Far Cry From Here, which was covered by Grammy nominated Irish born chanteuse Maura O’Connell. Holcombe hasn’t ever met her and would love to do so. He asked us to give her a kiss and a hug from him if we ever met her. And with that he wrapped his scarf around his neck, put on his woolly hat and left us with an indelible memory of a special night indeed.
Photo credit: Richard Webb 2014