Badly Drawn Boy | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Badly Drawn Boy 

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Damon Gough, the ill-sketched lad in question, is such a casual, low-energy sort of fellow it's easy to mistake him for a mope. Yet in fact the even-tempered confidence of the singer-songwriter's 2000 debut, The Hour of Bewilderbeast, was a welcome counterbalance to the confessional vein-leaking of your everyday acoustic open-mike warrior. And his two releases in 2002, Have You Fed the Fish? and the About a Boy sound track, were downright jaunty. There is little spring, it's true, in Gough's step on the recent One Plus One Is One (Astralwerks); even when his songs pop blithely along his brogue drags weightily against the beat. His lyrics, however, remain as cautiously optimistic and openhearted as ever--the bright "Four Leaf Clover" ("Go on do what you've got to do / You've got your dreams I've got mine too") marks a major advance beyond the tradition of the patronizing go-your-own-way-little-girl kiss-off exemplified by Cat Stevens's "Wild World." At times the fascination with intricacy shared by Gough and longtime collaborator Andy Votel pushes the arrangements to the brink of fussiness: a kiddie chorale drops by for the chorus of "Year of the Rat," and the many flutes remind us Gough's not just a folkie--he's a British folkie. But more often this tuneful folk-jazz suggests what Traffic might have been had they allowed themselves to be disciplined by a sense of pop concision. Brendan Benson opens. Thursday 21, 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, $20. All ages.

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