REVIEW: Nick Mulvey – Open House Festival, Bangor
This couldn’t be further from the truth for the Nick Mulvey gig in Bangor Abbey as part of the Open House Festival Bangor. Bangor Abbey was one of the 36 venues used for the festival throughout the month of August. It was an unusual location with an extremely unique atmosphere. As the small audience took to their pews, amidst bibles and enchanting stain glass windows, there was hype similar to that of Christmas mass and it was easy to forget you were in fact there for a gig.
Nick walks through the venue with his usual calm demeanour to a warm welcome from the audience. The gig had no support acts and no supporting band; it was only Nick and his guitar, giving an intimate feel to the evening. Nick has previously taken to the stage at the likes of Belsonic and The Limelight in Northern Ireland and so it was strange to see him so down scaled and humble on the evening.
Nick took to the stage and spoke of how this would be his last gig for a while as he will be taking time to concentrate on working on new material, knowing this heightened the uniqueness of the night. Nick spoke of how he has had a 3 year cycle of his debut album First Mind and how it was a good run, joking along the way that from the start, he always wanted to end the album playing it in infamous Bangor.
The night opens with the enchanting April. Nick is illuminated in subtle red lighting, it is solo, small and personal. Due to the venue, Nick is clearly visible for all members of the audience and all eyes are focused on him throughout. The fantastic sound quality due to the location is the perfect way to capture the captivating sounds of this album. If we imagine sitting in an empty room playing First Mind on the greatest speakers, we are still not close to the sound quality of the evening.
Nick has been headlining gigs with this album for 3 years now, yet here he is, sat in a church in Bangor with no band and no fuss. It’s just him and the music; this is a singer-songwriter with a true passion for the music which emerges within his playing. Doing this small simple gig for a small amount of people reflects just how down to earth he is and his appreciation for his work.
As Nick continues through the album with Meet Me There and Juramidam, appreciation is shown throughout, not only from the audience but from Nick too. There is very little singing back from the audience, which although is usually a positive sign, in this case it felt right to allow Nick to deliver his music alone. As you watch, it is hard to believe that you are watching such a well known and accomplished singer, who has played countless gigs at huge venues. The undeniable talent is there, yet so is an undeniable down to earth and humble aura – making him impossible to fault in any way or even dislike.
The gig drew in an audience of all ages, with the youngest attendee at just 9 weeks old! The audience were entranced from beginning to end and with no blinding lights used; it allowed Nick to look out upon the audience, heightening the connection and personal feel to the evening. As Nick stood upon the stage armoured with his guitar, the playing came so naturally to him and it all seemed so effortless. This is undeniably hard to come by within the music scene and the audience knew there was someone and something special and rare upon them on the evening.
Throughout the set, Nick covers Bjork’s ‘Bachelorette’ which he tells the audience he wishes he had wrote himself and Gillian Welch’s ‘Look at Miss Ohio’. This shows Nicks appreciation for music, his true love and his passion for it. Taking the time to commend the work of other singer-songwriters. Nick goes on to talk of how a friend has asked him to sing at his upcoming wedding and to write a song for it, Nick continues to share this song with the audience and compares playing it to the audience as easy compared to how it will be at the wedding. Showing he still gets nerves playing and this only reinforces his likeability and just how grounded he has stayed.
Throughout the concert, Nick stepped away from the mic and down from the stage, to be seated upon the steps of the stage. He was within touch of the audience as he sat among them. This took away the concert feel of the night and the audience were left feeling part of something special, as Nick sat among them so calmly as the intimacy was brought to a new level. There was such a quiet and appreciative atmosphere, with every word within the songs listened to, not lost within the hype of his usual gigs.
Nick ended the gig on a strong connection with the audience, sitting so casually upon the steps and informing the audience how he would be stood at the exit at the end, ready to chat. Again making the audience forget just how accomplished Nick has become throughout the past few years. This is one man who has clearly not lost sight of his love and passion for the music.
Chatting to Nick at the end of the evening, he talks about the bitter sweet feeling of ending the tour of the album.
“I’ve had such a good 3 years and with time, it just keeps getting better and better. Usually I have the band with me, meaning 15 people crammed into top bunks in a bus, but we love it, I love it, I have the best job in the world.”
When asked of his preference of playing smaller gigs like the one he just played or the big massive festivals, he gave the perfect answer. Summing up what being a musician means to him.
“The thing that matters is that you connect, the intimacy matters – but when you have intimacy on a large scale it’s mind blowing.” Siobhan Murphy, GiggingNI.com