A night at The Institute with the London-based singer-song-writing guitarist, Nick Mulvey. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Thursday night. After a busy year of touring with the likes of Ben Howard and a summer of festivals, Nick Mulvey is able to extend those chilled summer vibes and bring them to Birmingham on a cold Autumnal evening.
The night was kicked off by Mulvey’s support, Sivu [5/10] whose acoustic style and melancholy sound didn’t do wonders in livening up the crowd, but they were nevertheless an enjoyable set and certainly a suitable warm up for Mulvey’s performance (Sivu’s ‘Better man than he’ is worth checking out). There is a great sense of anticipation before wonderful Nick Mulvey [8/10] made his entrance to the stage, (minus his usual beanie or snapback) starting his set with the tumbling guitar picking and distinctive Mulvey hum which form into ‘April’, his set already feels like a dream-like lullaby. I think I’m safe in saying most of the room was already mesmerized with his distinctive style. The addition of his full band allowed each of his songs to grow from the subtle guitar picking into something captivating. This dreamy, almost eerie mood continued until the opening riff of ‘Meet Me There’ began; the mood in the crowd seemed to immediately shift back to the feeling of it being summer again (not quite transported back to Glastonbury, but close). Some audience members eagerly sang along to the familiar Mulvey tunes, whilst the rest of us were still transfixed with Mulvey’s gaze whilst he effortlessly plucked and flicked the stings of his guitar, creating the unique rhythms and melodies only Mulvey can do.
The atmosphere in The Institute throughout Mulvey’s set is best described as ‘chilled’. One audience member compared the crowd to an episode of The Walking Dead, however I feel this is a harsh comparison, as the mood was fitting for a Thursday evening and Mulvey’s adoring fans in the room appeared very content with the relaxed and friendly ambience. Although his handpicked band were able to create an immense sound while on stage with him, Mulvey’s renditions of songs such as ‘The Trellis’ without their backing were just as great.
Songs such as ‘Juramindam’ and ‘Ailsa Craig’ no doubt flaunt Mulvey’s West African musical influences; the latter particularly seemed to enchant the entire room with deep guitar twangs and moody vocal transitions from high to low, not to mention the distinctive humming.
Each one of Mulvey’s songs appeared to melt into one another with ease keeping the attention of the audience throughout the night. The set was appropriately finished on ‘Cucurucu’, which gave ample opportunity for the crowd to sing-a-long to one of his best know songs, building from the opening lyrics ‘softly in the evening dusk, a woman is singing to me’, growing steadily in pace with the introduction of those upbeat summer rhythms.
Mulvey’s set evidently maintained a strong composure throughout the evening, however the crowd were in for one unexpected treat. He opened his encore with his BBC Live Lounge cover of Drake’s ‘Hold on’ accompanied by some magical guitar work which transformed the song into something far more special than expected.
Of course the night’s festivities were concluded with ‘Nitrous’, which brought together all those Mulvey-isms that the audience had been mesmerised with all night. The steady build up of melodies and familiar lyrics brought the whole night to an upbeat and intimate conclusion. Nick Mulvey undoubtedly ended the night on a high. His originality as a songwriter and performer was a privilege to watch.