19th May | Colston Hall
Photos: Phil Watson
Have you ever had a part-time love affair with a musician? Somebody you fall in love with for a week, drift apart from, and then eagerly rediscover a few months later? Ever since the 2014 release of his debut album First Mind, that’s what Nick Mulvey had been to me, so when his latest record dropped last year, I welcomed him back into my earphones like an old friend before restarting the process all over again.
At least, that was until Saturday night. After a well-deserved break spent raising a family, writing and taking a breather, Mulvey returned to Bristol for another sold-out show on the second run of his Wake Up Now tour. And he enchanted everybody who was lucky enough to be there.
Warpaint’s own Theresa Becker Wayman, known as TT of late, said it best after her earlier support set, “Nick fills the room up with good vibes.” If anything, that’s an understatement. From the moment he stepped on stage, the hall was filled with a light airiness which seemed to lift you up to some higher place with no sense of time or space – only partly down to the clouds of incense being inhaled.
Standing alone, his silhouette dimly lit by the shadowy staging, the stripped-back intro of ‘We Are Never Apart’ began to play and from that moment on, I was mesmerised. I’d known this guy was talented, but I feel like I’d never properly appreciated it until just then. The strength of his guitar skills and his richly-cultured voice really is the most transcendent pairing.
When he followed up swiftly with another acoustic rendition of the more up-tempo ‘Myela,’ a track written in response to the refugee crisis, it was clear that this was more than just your average gig. Mulvey soon described his songs as being “for millennials and anyone who gives a shit” and those words rang true. None of his lyrics are throwaway or happen by accident.
He sang a string of well-known favourites, much to the crowd’s delight, with ‘Meet Me There’ and ‘Cucurucu’ receiving plenty of appreciation, creating that magical moment which makes gigs so special, where the audience chants out each word wholeheartedly. Later, he covered his favourite Gillian Welch track, ‘Look at Miss Ohio,’ and even this song fitted his earlier statement, with the words “you want to do right, just not right now” repeated over and over, providing a musical moral wake-up call of sorts.
If there’s one thing which is inspiring about Nick Mulvey, it’s got to be his subtle yet boundless spirituality. Throughout the show, he hinted towards a higher power, calling himself the “waiter not the chef” and suggested that the music wasn’t about him, but something more. He presented himself, first and foremost, as a vessel for the songs more than being the main event, a humble belief on his part. It’s rare that an artist is this modest about their music, but this is what seems to free him from any previous restraints, his complete acceptance that he’s just an instrument to the songs and not the other way around.
No more will I neglect my Nick Mulvey records – he’s earned himself a permanent place in my heart.