Bristling anticipation permeates the crowds of fans filtering downstairs into The Liquid Room for a long-awaited evening with Nick Mulvey and his multi-talented band. An intimate experience that would normally be snapped up by the neighbouring Glaswegian music scene, this night already feels very special; as Nick says on stage, “It’s been too long Edinburgh, let’s not wait so long next time.”
Following the success of the Mercury Prize-shortlisted First Mind in 2014, Mulvey brings us his new album Wake Up Now – a seamless flow of tracks, from stripped-back, soulful, acoustic sounds with Mulvey in spellbinding focus, to tracks you cannot help jumping around to like a Glasto banshee. His inspirations are clearly founded in the jazz rhythms of his previous group Portico Quartet and his love of Cuban music, African beats and oriental sounds. However this album stands out from the saturated market of laid-back, “folky” Sunday-afternoon tunes, through unique injections of synthesisers and the stunning backing vocalist letting loose on electric guitar.
The night begins with ‘Remembering’ and ‘Unconditional’ floating out amongst the packed room, warming up the slightly stiff crowd of students and (potentially) their parents who, having just stepped off a chilly Victoria Street, are not yet sure of themselves on this impromptu school-night. Yet as the repetitive beats ooze into their bones, Mulvey brings out the familiar ‘Meet Me There’ as well as an exclusive track that is not featured on either album, ‘Doing is Done’. The shoulders start to relax, the irresistible and contagious movements begin and suddenly the crowd is totally swept up in the singer-songwriter’s stunning music.
Stripping back his performance for the next four acoustic songs produces a mesmerising quality. The skilled guitar fingerpicking enchants and uplifts new tracks such as ‘Imogen’, alongside the favourite ‘Cucurucu’, as infectious grins start to spread. In this state of abandon, Mulvey’s brief attempts at spiritual introductions and “save the world” speeches come across as genuine and are met with passionate support from a crowd who may normally roll eyes at such sweeping clichéd statements from a guy who experimented with hallucinogenic plants to write most of the “message-heavy” album. Yet any hipster-cynicism is totally deserted by the time a bucket is swimming through the swaying fans as ‘Myela’ rings out in awareness of the refugee crisis: “they’d rather die once in the sea than dying everyday a little more.”
This pensive moment, sustained in the repeated lyrics “I am your neighbour, you are my neighbour”, unites this small venue in Edinburgh. Maybe Mulvey and his disciples could actually solve the world’s problems tonight, in this very Liquid Room? This intimacy fuels the aforementioned banshee dancing during the final beloved track ‘Fever to the Form’ and the encore number ‘Mountain to Move’.
There is no doubt that the powerful beauty of Mulvey’s music has done something very special here. From an awkwardly stiff beginning, the audience now leaves thoughtful and totally content; a feeling that comes from building bonds among strangers. Mid-week perfection.
IMAGE: Drew de F Fawkes, Wikimedia CC