Away from a blizzard a-whirling across the Manchester streets, a humble venue with a sell-out crowd warmed itself in anticipation of the night ahead. It was a contrast—where we eventually find ourselves on the better side—that embodied Ghostpoet’s music: optimistic melancholy, taking the days as they happen with a deep retrospection that understands there can only be light if there’s dark. Expanding on his past experiences in that way, there naturally comes a level of real honesty in Ghostpoet’s music; and with the intimacy in the place before the gig started, in hindsight it comes with little surprise to think it was one the best gigs I’ve been to in terms of the relationship between artist and crowd.
After listening to the support band (Fews) from the crowd, Ghostpoet made his way to the stage about 2 inches higher than the floor, conveying from the outset a genuine sense of modesty in his own undeniably immense abilities. In many ways in encapsulates his pending album, with track titles—which he apologised several times for on the night—such as ‘That Ring Down the Drain Kind of Feeling’. ‘Off Peak Dreams’ was probably the best played off his new album another melancholy track with an eye on the horizon (“Look life is hard, life is shifty/Stretching palms out, living nifty … But life’s alright, I guess, if sweetened up/I just guess I’m seeking out of the up and up”); an aspect of Ghostpoet that the crowd were no doubt already familiar with.
Interspersing these new tracks with older, more well known ones, knocking straight into ‘Survive It’ early on, Ghostpoet kept the crowd engaged throughout. He managed to take his sound even more down-tempo, even heavier on the bass than on his recorded tracks, introducing a guitar with a sunset echo that added an entirely new dynamic to his studio material where electronic and acoustic instruments play off each other. ‘Cash and Carry Me Home’ and ‘Meltdown’ also featured, upbeat and lively but with a darker subject matter (“I think we’re on the meltdown/I feel it in my bones, you know”), presenting the distinctive duality of Ghostpoet’s vocals, with the capacity to ring out either achingly optimistic or stoically melancholy.
Indeed, ever since his debut album ‘Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam’ in 2011 with, for example, his closing track Liiines (“Life is too short to store our grudges/Life is too long to make no plans”), blurring the lines between things conceivably irreconcilable, and making sense of what’s made, has always seemed a venture Ghostpoet has set himself upon. Thursday night was certainly one of those where all other plans were forgotten, at least until we got back out into the snow.By Scott Clarke