|Albums > 2006 > Mix, GemmaArt > Daniel Johnston - Barbican London|
Daniel Johnston - Barbican London
14th April 2006
Review by Michael Sullivan
This show was in a similar format to last year's Daniel Johnston's Discovered Covered; a double CD: - CD 1 - Covers of Daniel's material and CD 2 of the same songs played by Daniel. I confess, I happily listened to the more palatable cover versions but failed to get acquainted with the rawer CD of Daniel versions.
The show also presaged the up and coming film, 'The Devil and Daniel Johnston'. A myriad of artists turned out to demonstrate their support for this difficult to penetrate, erratic and unconventional performer. There was James Yorkston, Teenage Fanclub, Jason Pierce of Spiritualised, Vic Chestnut and Howe Gelb. In turn they took to the stage against a backdrop of Daniel's child-like felt-tip pen comic book style art; featuring characters such as a depressed Incredible Hulk, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Captain America and various hybrid creatures - triple-headed duck-lions, triple-stick-eyed snakes.
[...] The night has so far been slow paced. All the way through the artists are alluding to Daniel's greatness, possibly even genius. Teenage Fanclub perform a more upbeat three song set of Daniel's songs - Delusion Confusion & Fish. Then it's Jason Pierce from Spiritualised. He seems reverential in regards to Daniel's songs, and performs 'True Love Will Find You in the End', and 'Funeral Home'. The string quartet and gospel backing singers are a touch too much, the tenuous nature of the songs are rendered bloated and overblown. The words 'Funeral Home' are repeated ad infinitum to tedium.
Then as the stage is emptied it's the moment we've all been built up for, the Brian Wilson-like, mad, obsessive songwriting genius - Daniel Johnston. He takes the stage in grey tracksuit bottoms and evergreen sweatshirt. He doesn't look as if he's ever set foot in a gym the outfit is more for lounging around in, eating tubs of ice cream. He looks like a man who's let himself go, a man who has never had anything work out for him ever. He never quite looks out into the audience and keeps his gaze angled down to the stage floor. Through his uncertain demeanour you could surmise that he's has the air of mental dishevelment.
He opens his guitar case and procedes to play his out of tune nylon stringed guitar. He performs three unrequited love songs on the guitar, sometimes having difficulty with the bar chords in the bridge he'd written. By the second song, I could see the ernest nature of his song and could get through his presentation to see the inherent the quality. He moves to piano for a fourth unrequited love song. His piano playing is of top quality, and I wonder why he doesn't present his songs on piano, rather than guitar.
That's it. There's no encore. I leave the venue with the wisdom of 'Don't Let the Sun Go Down on a Grievience' ringing like a bell inside my head, '... do yourself a favour be your own saviour, don't let the sun go down on a grievience'. I get home and flip on CD two of "Discovered Covered."
It was crap. Unbelieveably crap. The people who believe he's a genius would no doubt say I'm missing something. Listen to the video clip below and decide for yourself...