After an extensive and well-received UK tour earlier this month with The Dears, one would have thought that Murray Lightburn would want to put his feet up. Instead, he embarked upon a solo London show with a four-piece orchestra, whom he had only met the afternoon before the show!
There was as much mystery as to what Murray would play; as there was with the venue, Old Church (which originally housed the remains of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, women’s rights advocate and mother of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein). Earlier this year, Murray had spoken that he was working in his studio mixing down a project called The World Provider. He had also released a studio album in his homeland, Canada, called, Mass:Light, in 2013. No material from either of these would surface; it was 100% The Dears material all the way.
The running of the set was like a theatrical performance; two sets divided by a fifteen-minute encore. Murray Lightburn, with just an acoustic guitar, would open with Missiles. After a couple more songs, he would bring out the orchestra for To Have and to Hold. Murray was very humble throughout the performance. In between songs he shared intimate details behind the influence of his songs, what he was experiencing at the time when he wrote his songs, his wife Natalia Yanchak, fatherhood (where he said all his grey hairs come from) and his nerves about doing his first solo show outside of Canada. The use of the orchestra, three violinists and a cellist helped Murray with his storytelling. Murray’s bittersweet family history with the UK was also felt. His own mother, before settling in Canada, came to England in 1960 who “faced lots of muted racism and by 1963 had enough of England”.
There was a wait, almost halfway through, before Murray started to play material from No Cities Left, however, this album was well represented and he was able to evoke the same excitement and make it sound as fresh and revolutionary as when it first gained acclaim in 2004. At times, it was almost unrecognisable to the original songs and still as elating. Apart from one Freudian slip, with the orchestra missing Murray’s cue on Warm and Sunny Days, the connection between Murray and the orchestra (let’s not forget who he had only met them on the afternoon before the set) was that of a harmonious close-knit family. The orchestral arrangements enabled Murray to adjust his own vocal arrangements and begin to move away from the Damon Albarn and Morrissey comparisons which he has said he is “absolutely f*cking bored to death (with)”
One thing was certain, Murray provided no opportunity for the audience to be disappointed or get “f*cking bored”, not even in the encore. This was an essential come down time before raising them up again in the second set. Murray Lightburn proved he could take himself and The Dears in any musical direction he wishes without dividing or disappointing fans.