Gig review: Dave McPherson @ CB2, Cambridge

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In hindsight, Dave McPherson had warned us earlier that “it might get a bit silly at the end”, but this had gone beyond silly. This was ridiculous. His cover of ‘Boom! Shake the Room’ has become almost synonymous with his performances these days, but it never fails to be anything less than astounding. With syllables firing off his tongue at a rate which is simply impossible to keep up with, let alone decipher, McPherson topped off a show which was unpolished, unpredictable and at times unhinged, but overall, the show of a flat out entertainer. There’s no other word for him.

As the front man of late 90’s alt-metal outfit InMe and after over 15 years of touring and festival appearances, both as a band and solo, it’s fair to say McPherson has done his time on stage. Tonight though, he doesn’t look quite comfortable up there at first. In the confined space of CB2’s cellar room he’s forced to shuffle through the cluster of bodies to get to the stage, where from beneath his flat cap he glances around the room while checking his phone. There’s an expectant pause as he leans into the microphone, but instead he fiddles some more with his guitar. Finally, his Essex voice chirps up. “This is a song about how tolerable I am as a human being”, before he opens up with ‘Something Bad’, a mournful falsetto number, which combined with his introductory statement might hint at a difficult hour ahead. But worry not, pausing before he begins his second number he leans into the microphone again, this time with a wry smile. “This is a song about how tolerable I am as a human being”. The smirk breaks into a grin and all of a sudden, as he leads into ‘Last Year’ he looks completely and utterly at home.

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The next hour or so only go on to prove that is exactly the case. McPherson seems to have a natural ability to get the crowd into the palm of his hand; a healthy dose of self deprecating humour and a quick wit will do that, but so too do his songs. He doesn’t have a setlist as such, rather going from song to song from his back catalogue while also taking and turning down requests (“I’ve forgotten the lyrics to that one!”). There’s a fairly consistent theme in each, relationship woes tends to be the order of the day; but each time it looks like things might get a bit too gloomy, he’ll pull out a gag to lighten the mood, no better exemplified in the forlorn ‘If Only You Knew’, finished off with the chords from Neighbours “when some bad shit happens”. Other set highlights were acoustic version of ‘Defenders of the Oasis’, a song from InMe side project Centiment, and ‘Glass White Flag’ from his 2006 EP ‘B.S.W.U.E’, but it was InMe anthem ‘Faster The Chase’ that captured the night. After challenging the crowd to outdo Liverpool and Croydon in a singalong competition (we won first prize for co-ordination), McPherson led the crowd, and then let the crowd lead a more than hefty singalong. Looking around at an entire room of heads thrown back in full voice is one of those gig moments that never, ever gets old, and it was spine tingling stuff here.

It’s this engagement with the crowd that serves McPherson so well. Time and time again he thanked the crowd for being there and for their support, admitting he’d gone through a phase where he’d lost enthusiasm for it all and had tired of playing to empty rooms. His support acts for the night were touring partner ‘We Are All Fossils’ and local singer songwriter ‘B-Sydes’, both more than worthy additions to an evening of melancholy acoustic guitar, and he made sure to repeatedly thank those guys too and in turn, support a scene which he’s come from himself. Thankfully, he’s come through that stage of losing heart with performing live and making music – he talked of a triple InMe album currently under way using the PledgeMusic funding format – and it was evident to see that he does indeed still love a life on stage, and we’re all the better for it. ‘Pump it up, Dave!’

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