Malcolm Middleton @ The Caves, Edinburgh, 27 Nov

Airing most of his new album Bananas, as well as delving into his back catalogue, Malcolm Middleton provides a perfect evening of low-stakes entertainment

Live Review by Lewis Wade | 29 Nov 2018

Standing alone on stage, with just an acoustic guitar, Malcolm Middleton asks the crowd if anyone is from Anstruther. Satisfied that no one in the room is currently living there, he opens the show with an unreleased song, detailing the mundanity of his existence in the charming fishing village and its damaging effect on his mental health. Together with another unreleased solo number, this introduction serves as what Middleton later calls an “opening encore”, setting out the lyrical stall very clearly before the rest of the band arrive.

Backed with keys, double bass, drums and backing vocals from Jenny Reeve, Middleton plays a delightful mix of old and new, slowly settling into the show despite a few misplaced lyrics and being constantly unable to read the set list (it was printed in orange, he laments). Most of the new album, Bananas, gets an airing, with catchy tunes like Gut Feeling and Twilight Zone recalling the era of Sleight of Heart and A Brighter Beat. Love is a Momentary Lapse in Self-Loathing provides a rare extended instrumental freakout, leaning into Middleton's proggier tendencies, along with Man Up, Man Down and the Lanark-referencing Salamander Gray.

Like John Lennon Said is the sole survivor from the electro experiments of Summer Of '13 and, despite being described by Middleton as “a bit cheesy, a bit shit”, it sounds great in this new context. Some of the most desparate and despairing songs come from his first album, 5:14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine, with Cold Winter, Crappo the Clown and closing song  The King of Bring plumbing the very depths of heartbreak and depression for substance. The biggest hit of the night is Blue Plastic Bags, which creates the rare mix of audible laughing and sing-along community across its three minutes and change.

It must be difficult when depression is the key tenet of your creative output, as Middleton states succintly in the lovely Week Off: 'It's easy hating yourself / It's hard making it rhyme'. However, it doesn't seem too difficult tonight, as Middleton and band revel in the cathartic power of music, while still trading a few barbs and bantering with the attentive audience; a perfect evening of low-stakes entertainment.