Murray. A. Lightburn is no stranger to XS Noize. XS Noize has delighted in reviewing Lightburn’s band The Dears spectacular electric-rock shows as well as his first solo show outside of his hometown Canada at Old Church St Pancras, London. The solo, Old Church St Pancras show with a four-piece orchestra which was “like a theatrical performance; two sets divided by a fifteen-minute encore” saw Lightburn reveal himself to the intimate audience in so many ways; the only thing he didn’t reveal was solo material.
This time around the church was bigger and there was also material from his first UK solo release. Despite the grander surroundings and new solo material, Lightburn was not accompanied by any other band members or string section; just an acoustic guitar and Ray Charles designer glasses.
When Murray introduced himself and the band he is best known for being in, he sounded like an unknown trying to reach out to a new audience. This was received with a hybrid of elated cheers and Fouad (one of Peter Griffin's co-workers at the Pawtucket Brewery) like laughter who thought Lightburn was a joking because they knew who his band was and its accomplishments. The question was: how well did they know his new material? Opening with new song “Belleville Blues”, whether the crowd knew it as well as a No Cities Left track or not; they were ecstatic and in awe of Lightburn’s live vocals that proved to still be peaking.
“Centre of My Universe”, another new song from Lightburn’s new LP, Hear Me Out, was especially poignant as he opened up about his family, the centres of his universe, particularly his The Dears band member and wife, Natalia Yanchak. Murray then told the story behind his next song, the first The Dears song of this set, “Ticket to Immortality” which was written for his first child. The spiritual father-child connection of the lyrics resonated with the audience and the Union Chapel’s natural acoustic setting with this stripped bare rendition. The Gang of Losers LP would receive much attention as Lightburn also played “There Goes My Outfit”. There was a Motown vibe with this new acoustic reworking that was perfected with Lightburn’s echoing clicking which paid homage to much of the musical direction the new material from Hear me Out went in.
“Hear Me Out” from the self-titled new solo LP was also performed. Whilst “There Goes My Outfit” took on the musical direction; many of the other new Hear Me Out tracks took on a more poignant The Dears style of arrangement. As far as the Union Chapel was concerned, they were getting the best of Lightburn as both a solo artist and as the frontman of The Dears. Lightburn also surprised the UK audience by playing a song bearing the same name of a Canada only release, Mass: Light. “Mass: Light”, which initially took on a chilled EDM direction added to the elating, melancholy emotions Murray had produced throughout the evening.
Towards the end of his set, Murray claimed not to have a fixed setlist. At this point, he played his only song from No Cities Left: “Pinned together, Falling Apart”. It is hard to believe Lightburn wrote this modern classic twenty years ago! What was even more amazing was his ability to capture the complex musical arrangements, production and key changes of this six-minute classic live with just an acoustic guitar. Whether the setlist was pre-planned or not; Lightburn played out with what XS Noize reviewed as the best track off Hear Me Out: “When They See Me”. “Murray reminisced of his sadder experiences of childhood with accurate photographic recall and how it led to “genuine despair”. Somehow, despite the sadness, Murray left the audience elated.
When XS Noize reviewed Hear Me Out, it was noted that “Murray naturally knows how to develop this (sadness) and perfects with strings in The Dears style as well as saxophone, flutes, and bells”. At the Union Chapel, Lightburn did all of this by himself with just a six-string acoustic guitar.