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   Sunday, May 25, 2003  
To the Arts Cafe Saturday night where M. Ward, his guitar and harmonicas held a packed crowd enthralled from first to last. Physically embodying his understated, scuffed sound, Ward placed the mic quite low down obliging him to address it in slightly crouched, stooping fashion. Flashing up left-eye biased glances from beneath his cap and touselled mop, truly he is the Lt. Columbo of rock. And he's certainly got it all worked out.
With his instantly distinctive croaky whisper Ward opened with his smartly ironic snails-pace reworking of Bowie's Let's dance, setting off a contagion of helpless grins which, for one reason or another, were to remain pretty much in place thoughout. It was one of about five cover versions - including Vic Chesnutt's Where were you, Louis Armstrong's Someday you'll be sorry and Dylan's Buckets of rain - which served, as much as anything, to highlight the sheer quality of his own material. From latest album Transfiguation of Vincent we heard Sad, sad song, stripped of ominous rhythm section but featuring Ward's vocal at it's most strident; Outta my head and the gorgeous Undertaker, Ward deploying his sweet falsetto to heart-stopping effect as the tune detoured into the refrain from The Beatles' You never give me your money.
Also from the new album, Duet for guitars #3 was one of several instrumentals showcasing Ward's dazzlingly idiosyncratic guitar playing. Though he often tours with a band, on numbers like this they'd surely be superfluous. Quite where all the elements of the sound come from reallyrather is at a lost to explain. A lot of the time the real action's in the hyperactive picking of the right hand, with only minimal fretting of the neck held at 45 degrees. Much like his singing, it seems an intuitive style with feel prevailing over (formidable) technique.
From End of Amnesia came Half moon, Carolina and, happily, blog favourite O'Brien which figured about halfway through the set. Things were rounded out at the Arts Cafe with a Beach Boys-based instrumental but that apparently wasn't quite it for the night as Ward announced he'd being playing some more after midnight at the Buffalo Bar at Highbury Corner. Whether he did or not reallyrather can't say but your correspondent did manage a brief chat with Matt before he left. Re the upcoming Rilo Kiley connection, he confirmed this blog's guess that it has come about through their mutual association with Bright Eyes. Though RK will indeed moonlight as his backing band they'll also be playing their own set at the shows which begin on the West Coast (??LA July 16??) but which will "go all over". Ward hooks up with Jenny, Blake & co. next month to work out a set...

reallyrather is happy to report it's connoisseurship of Europap was shot to pieces last night as blog Eurovision Song Contest tip Norway went the way of all good each-way bets and finished fourth. Should have known that a Turkey would prevail...
   posted by SMc at 7:50 AM |