Folk superstar Laura Marling is a tough act to support, especially at a venue such as the breathtaking Lowry in Salford’s Media City UK. However Nick Mulvey, former hang player and percussionist of Mercury Award nominated progressive Jazz outfit Portico Quartet, put on a show which effortlessly measured up to the angsty English rose.
Silence fell across the Lyric theatre as the auditorium lights dimmed and the soft-spoken Nick Mulvey took the stage, as if walking in off the street. In baggy jeans and a t-shirt he looked truly relaxed – no mean feat when standing alone on a stage which has held world-class Operas and groundbreaking theatre productions. Confidently gazing into the bright lights, he launched into the haunting ‘April’. As his fingers glided across the nylon guitar strings in a swirling ostinato, he gave out a ghostly hum that drifted across the silent crowd.
Throughout the set Mulvey’s diverse influences became apparent, as he moved from the rolling picking of a Spanish ballad to slapped cross-rhythms reminiscent of an African djembe, to a cover of Gillian Welch’s country hit ‘Look at Miss Ohio’.
In spite of his instrumental prowess however, it is the lyrics that at points failed to capture the imagination. The title track of Mulvey’s 2013 release Fever to the Form was full of the sentimental clichés that have become definitive of mainstream nu-folk artists such as Ben Howard and Marika Hackman. It was a shame to see an artist with such a genre-defying potential fall at the final metaphorical hurdle.