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Rainy Boy Sleep, Best Boy Grip, Morgan MacIntyre

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ATL | 18:07 UK time, Monday, 23 January 2012

Rainy Boy Sleep

 

Rainy Boy Sleep, Best Boy Grip, Morgan MacIntyre
Black Box, Belfast
22nd of January 2012

When Leonard Cohen sings about heartbreak, a million bruised hearts all over the world weep bitter tears with him. But when Billy Ray Cyrus shares the pain of his ‘Achy Breaky Heart’, we laugh at his mullet til the tears run down our cheeks. The reason is one of that old musical chestnut ‘authenticity’, and this showcase gig in the Black Box as part of the Out to Lunch festival gives us a veritable journey through the various aspects of this prickly issue.

Morgan MacIntyre has an undeniably powerful voice, capable of scaling mountains, or exploring the depths of the ocean. There is nothing ‘kooky’ or ‘quirky’ about MacIntyre, and her directness of performance seems almost unusual in this day and age. Instead, accompanied by piano and guitar, her set would be more suited to a late night in Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, or a cocktail lounge in the 1970s. It might not be particularly cool, but her own material is strong, and it is very easy to imagine her doing a set of torch songs in a competent and entertaining style. In a sense, it matters not what she says, but the way she says it is most enjoyable.

On the other hand, Best Boy Grip has something to say, and has spent a long time honing his ability to do so in the most effective manner. The alias of Derry songwriter Eoin O’Callaghan, he specialises in the kind of intelligent and literary songs that hide real emotion, with strong feelings bubbling below a thin layer of wit and irony. With a hint of the bitter barbs of Elvis Costello at his best, as well as calling to mind Ben Folds in terms of voice and arrangements, Best Boy Grip puts on a spectacular performance that leaves the audience in no doubt of his potential.

A refreshing honesty shines through every note, whether he’s coating the songs in layers of metaphor or not, and there is something so direct and pure about his performance that he repeatedly hits the emotional target again and again. Factor in an incredible voice and a warmhearted approach to performing, and Best Boy Grip suddenly seems like a contender for one of the most promising artists to emerge from this country in quite some time.

On the other hand, Rainy Boy Sleep, aka Stevie Martin, has been reaping critical plaudits for most of last year, and it’s instantly easy to see why. Immediately grabbing the audience’s attention with a room-silencing transition from being very quiet to very loud. He delivers a set that relies heavily on looped instruments and vocals, showcasing his ability to multi-task, whilst projecting a ‘tortured artist’ persona. And this is where things become complicated; is Rainy Boy Sleep just playing a part for our entertainment, or are we supposed to share in the pain he is supposedly displaying on stage?

As he contorts himself and shouts and screams, there are moments where it is hard not to question whether this is all play acting, the work of a talented performer wearing the clothes of suffering for a quick emotional performance hit. His songs are undeniably strong, and it’s a captivating performance, but in direct contrast to the honesty of Best boy Grip, Rainy Boy Sleep occasionally comes across as insincere and contrived. And whilst it wouldn’t be true to say that he is the Billy Ray Cyrus to Best Boy Grip’s Leonard Cohen, I cannot imagine relating to his music when I’m suffering from genuine heart-break.

Steven Rainey

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