Adam Green – The Duchess, York, 31/05/16 1

Adam Green – The Duchess, York, 31/05/16

Notwithstanding the fact that a Little Resistance EP launch and the Saturday Night Lounge comedy club will feature later on this week, it was always going to be down to Adam Green to draw the final curtain on York’s celebrated nightclub and concert venue, The Duchess. For his is the last major show to take place at a venue that over the years has attracted acts as musically diverse as Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Courtney Barnett, Toyah Wilcox, Johnny Marr, Ed Sheeran and Fairport Convention.

The death knell for The Duchess had, in truth, been ringing for quite some time but had got considerably louder earlier this year when plans were revealed that Stonebow House – the building in whose bowels The Duchess lies – was to be radically redeveloped. This concrete monument to 60’s brutalist architecture, which is loved and loathed by locals in equal measure, is to be transformed into a gold and glass complex of shiny new apartments, shops and restaurants. And The Duchess won’t be playing any part in this major refurbishment.

Adam Green – the American singer-songwriter, artist and film-maker who is perhaps best known for having been half of the charming lo-fi duo Moldy Peaches and their association with the anti-folk movement of the late 90s/early oughties – recognizes the significance of the occasion, so much so that he plays Scott Walker’s ‘Duchess’ as one of his encores. The song, in keeping with much of Green’s performance, is as randomly powerful as it is poignant.

Much earlier and to somehow mark their sudden and dramatic shift from being the night’s principal support act to that of Adam Green’s backing band, the French indie-folk quintet Coming Soon don various hats.  Their headgear complements Adam Green’s purple fez and matching waistcoat.  “Look Ma, I’m Aladdin” he later tells us as if by way of explanation for this seemingly oddball attire.

Last month the former Moldy Peaches man released his second independent film, Adam Green’s Aladdin. Starring former child star and contemporary slacker Macaulay Culkin alongside Arrested Development actress Alia Shawkat, the movie is a surreal, hallucinogenic take on the famous Middle Eastern folk tale. The soundtrack for the film provides the backbone to this evening’s musical performance.

Adam Green

And what a performance it is. Green bounds on stage sporting a broken left arm. Fractured in Newcastle a few nights ago – from “signing a row of dicks” he reliably informs us – it was put back together the following day in Hull Infirmary. It may well mean that he cannot play guitar and puts paid to his regulation mid-concert crowd-surfing antics, but it doesn’t stop him regularly high-fiving all those in the front row as he tirelessly ricochets back and forth like some one-armed, karate-wielding pinball machine.

The words to Green’s songs contain much of the darker, comedic and satirical humour of an early Leonard Cohen. His music veers between that of the more accessible end of Frank Zappa – stretching the boundaries between astonishing brilliance and absolute nonsense – and the whimsical charm of Jonathan Richman. It is impossible to take your eyes – and ears – off him.

Tunes just tumble from him like sonic confetti. Early on we get a triple fusillade of ‘Chubby Princess’, ‘Novotel’ and ‘We’re Not Supposed To Be Lovers’. In the middle we are treated to Green acapella, including a marvellous ‘High Life’ where he sings to us as if he were back home in his shower. And then he tops it all off with the sublime slapstick of ‘Jessica’. He poses the question, “I hope you are having the time of your life”. You can bet your sweet bippy we are, Adam.

The Duchess has often been a dark, dismal place. The venue’s low ceilings and even lower lighting serve as stark reminders of its previous incarnation as a snooker hall. But tonight the place feels joyously alive, full of vibrant colour and imbued with a fun-filled party atmosphere. And for that we have to thank Mr Adam Green as he gives The Duchess a suitably fond and completely abstract farewell.

Photo credit: Simon Godley

More photos from this show can be found HERE

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.