I was lucky to get tickets to M. Ward's performance at the Borderline last night. The Borderline is a real indie venue of about 250 capacity just off Tottenham Court Road in Soho (London), and so it was a real treat to see M. Ward in such an intimate setting. In fact, there was just one person between me and the stage! I got goosebumps several times and had a smile on my face throughout.
He came out doing a couple of solo, acoustic tunes including Fuel For Fire and then the band took the stage starting with one of my faves, Chinese Translation. They played many from Post-War, including the title track (another fave), Poison Cup, To Go Home & Magic Trick (for the encore). Hold Time, his new record, was also well-represented including Rave On, Oh Lonesome Me, Never Had Nobody Like You & Fisher Of Men. They also did a rollicking rendition of Roll Over Beethoven towards the end.
M. Ward is a throwback. His gravelly voice evokes a young Dylan while his simple arrangements drip with sepia-toned poignance (listen to Post-War for an example). He seems more confident these days. The only other time I saw him in Boston, he hid beneath a hat and didn't seem quite comfortable taking center stage. In contrast, last night he (hat-less) started the set solo and wasn't afraid to banter with the crowd nor display his virtuosity on the guitar. It was a gig I won't be forgetting anytime soon.