JOSEPH Arthur is not a man easily defined. He is a musician, poet, painter and all-round master of multitasking.

His tour has seen him travel across Europe and the UK, before gracing the streets of Manchester for an intimate performance.

Doors opened at 7:30, and all seats on the back steps were taken by 8pm. The night began with a short set from Reuben Hollebon.

The barefooted singer-songwriter had only himself and one other fellow on stage as he regaled the audience with slow folk ballads reminiscent of Jeff Buckley.

However, despite his technical abilities and strong voice, his time on stage remained rather one-note as songs blurred into one another.

His performance was skilful but it failed to deliver an emotional punch like great acoustic music should.

After a short break, Arthur climbed up on to the stage, in sunglasses and Democrat blue overcoat.

This is a man who has made no secret of his political leanings and his condemnation of Donald Trump culminated in The Campaign Song, a strong indictment of the now President Elect.

At the show, however, he seemed reticent to be too political, however he eventually succumbed and recited a freshly written poem on the election, to loud applause.

Arthur is the definition of a one man band and a master of the loop pedal. Discovered in the 90’s by Peter Gabriel, he has a musical pedigree unparalleled by many.

It’s hard not to see why. Songs that began with nothing more than his gravely voice and a simple chord progression suddenly swelled to become full compositions with percussion and pleasing guitar solos.

This was far from a polished set, with the technology offering some resistance to his wishes.

A highlight of the night was I Miss The Zoo, a hymn of lamentation to times of addiction accompanied by Arthur creating a piece of paint on canvas before the audiences eyes.It was rough, it was messy, but it was undeniably him.

Arthur was receptive to audience requests and enjoyed a good rapport with them throughout the set.

It is refreshing to see an artist take audience participation as a part of his set structure. When an audience member shouted out for a particular track, the 45 year old Ohioan would reply of his love for that one.

He also paid tribute to Lou Reed, a known inspiration in his songwriting, by performing a rendition of Walk On The Wild Side

Despite all this, it felt at times like we weren’t feeling the full breadth of his abilities, as the solo performance meant that he couldn’t fully realise a particularly great riff or guitar phrase for fearing of losing the sychronisation.

An understated climax ended the set when his rendition of In The Sun saw him depart from the stage and join the audience on the dance floor, a great democratising move.

Moments after he has finished this final song, however, he was already through a back door and the performance was over.

Those whose appetites were not sated were appeased when he returned into the room to talk to his fans and engage in actual conversation about even their own artistic projects with genuine interest.

Joseph Arthur delivered another solid performance, demonstrating that it is he (and not the likes of Ed Sheeran) who has the mastery of the loop.

This is a man who is desperately under appreciated in the music scene, and people need to take a look at him to see how it is done.

His simple and painful lyrics are lifted by his low tones and his sincerity permeates his performance, making for wonderful viewing.

By George Mckay

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