The Miserable Rich – Live

The Deaf Institute, Manchester 07/03/2010

By Elinor O’Neill

Though they hail from the beaches of blighty, with their cowboy hats, deep throat drawls and bare existentialist lyrics you could be forgiven for thinking The Miserable Rich had ridden up outside Trof on horseback directly from the dusty plains of the American wild west. 

The Deaf Institute is the perfect setting for tonight’s gig thanks to its sumptuous leather lined, concert-style steps and fabulously over the top décor. The sound engineer is a legend, and each and every word sounds as clear as spring water. Spotlights on the stage look like miniature sunsets, and their warmth ensures a few spooky shadows which add nicely to the mystique surrounding the men of The Miserable Rich. 

Sara Lowes, the support act is an absolute sweetheart who treats us to a six track set. Although she seems rehearsed and relaxed, she is refreshingly appreciative of the audiences applause.

She performs with her husband, also her drummer boy and a talented trombone player. Her voice sounds like treacle tastes, and her performance is a pleasure because she seems so unaware of how talented she is. 

‘I Wish’, is a jazzy track which makes one want to jiggle bop, but the best track, ‘Something I Don’t Know’, is saved till the end.

It has a tricky little trombone loop at the beginning but rather than pre recording it for sake of ease their commitment to authenticity means they record the loop live in front of us, even though it takes eight attempts to get it just so.

By the time The Miserable Rich come on, the crowd has increased, but the intimacy remains. At first there is a touch of awkwardness between the stage and audience, which can perhaps be attributed to the lead singer, James de Malplaquet seeming a little too distantly cool with his tendency to stare into space.

He works hard however to hook us all in with his banter between tracks, and with the aid of the accomplished string section by the time ‘Boat Song’ is played the crowd are caught and are clinging tightly to every note. 

It starts with an eerie music box wound by the frontman, which plays us the lullaby of our past. The song consists of a role reversal of a familiar childhood scenario in its story of a son tucking his mother into bed at night and singing her to sleep.

‘Pisshead’ is a proper tune which highlights just how brilliant a lyricist their songwriter is. It is sung with such splendour and soaring high notes that it ensures lines like “I feel much better when I’ve had a drink” sound painfully poignant.

Audience participation is encouraged, not only in the standard requests for badly timed clapping, but also by encouraging the crowd to sound out wolf noises prior to the start of final track, ‘Wolf’.

When they return for an encore after a huge applause, de Malplaquet makes everyone giggle by acknowledging the difficult atmosphere at the start of the set. As they launch into their last song, ‘Oliver’, however, it is clear that the only atmosphere which remains is one of deep appreciation.

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