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Kevin Devine, O2 Academy 2, Oxford

December 2, 2009

The gig started off fairly unconventionally, with support act Shoes and Socks Off opting to sit down quietly on an equipment box, pull out his acoustic guitar and just start playing. No stage, no microphone, just one man and his guitar and this was to set the standard for the evening as Kevin Devine took a similar approach, sitting down in front of the stage with a microphone and an acoustic guitar while the crowd sat around him in a semi-circle.

It was more akin to guitar playing around a campfire than a gig and that made it all the more special, in a way it was far more appropriate for the style of songs and it worked out far better than him being behind the barrier atop an inaccessible stage, especially when you consider that from the back and forth chatter from the crowd to the spontaneous songs about a boy taking his pants off on stage and people going to the toilet that punctuated the songs the singer was anything but.

The songs, including three covers by Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Elliot Smith respectively were all the better for the relatively simple method of performing, the lyrics soaring out over the top of the acoustic guitar and into the eager ears of the audience who sat, transfixed as this man poured his all into his songs. Occasionally singing out unaided when passionate fits overtook him or smiling to himself at particular sections of his own songs, almost as if he were relishing the opportunity to play these songs to an audience. Near to the end Kevin Devine called out for requests, something that would have been unachievable in any other environment and you got the sense that everyone who came got far more than they bargained for from the experience.

As this was the Big Scary Monsters holiday tour the closer, ‘Splitting Up Christmas’ was available as a single, gift wrapped and individually signed. It is small touches like individually signing singles that are generally amiss with the majority of music. It’s all very well to sell 4 types of t-shirt with the band’s name in large letters but what people really covet is something tangible to take away from a gig that is personal to them, just as this particularly intimate gig will have been.

Set List

The Man In Me (Bob Dylan)
Brother’s Blood
Brooklyn Boy
A Flatline Blur
No Time Flat
Tomorrow’s Just Too Late
Carnival
Harvest Moon (Neil Young)
Cotton Crush
Easy Way Out (Elliot Smith)
Keep Ringing Your Bell
Bag of Bones
Splitting Up Christmas

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