LIVE: The Natvral – Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds, 21/04/2022 4

LIVE: The Natvral – Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds, 21/04/2022

Much has changed in Kip Berman’s life since he was last here in Leeds. He is now a father of two children, his daughter having just turned six years of age and his son is three and a half. He and his family have moved out of Brooklyn and now live some 45 miles southwest of there in Princeton, New Jersey. And he is no longer playing in a band, having dissolved The Pains of Being Pure at Heart in 2019. Berman had fronted that much-revered indie-pop project for the previous 12 years. He is now making music as The Natvral and it is in that guise that he appears here tonight, the fourth date on a solo tour of the UK before heading over to Spain and Portugal.

There has also been a marked shift in the nature of Kip Berman’s songwriting since he last performed in Leeds almost five years ago (just down the road from here at the Brudenell Social Club). He has left behind “a perpetual yearning for being seventeen again” and all of its accompanying uncertainty and angst. His songs are now far more outward-facing as he populates them with a series of words that resemble short stories. The characters he portrays therein are seeking to make their way through life, dealing with the changes that face them. This different songwriting process not only marks a creative liberation for Kip Berman but also the contentment with which he views his own life.

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But for all of these changes, Kip Berman’s ear for a good tune and ability to deliver it with unbridled passion and energy remains firmly intact. He opens this powerful, immersive show with four songs from Tethers. Released in April of last year this record is Berman’s first album as The Natvral. ‘Tears of Gold’, ‘Why Don’t You Come Out Any More?’, ‘Sun Blisters’, and ‘New Moon’ are unleashed, rat-a-tat, reflecting a further shift in Kip Berman’s creative outlet from the often coruscating noise of his former band to a more melodic sound that owes much to classic folk-rock from the ’60s and early ’70s. This much is no more true than on ‘Sun Blisters’ where Berman’s vocal phrasing is redolent of Bob Dylan and even when stripped of the Al Kooper-like organ fills of the studio recording this song would not have been entirely out of place on Blonde On Blonde.

In a broadly similar vein, later in the 11-song set Kip Berman unleashes his very best Neil Young on ‘Stay In The Country’, his outstanding guitar work here drawing very favourable comparisons with both ‘Alabama’ and ‘Words’ from Young’s 1972 album Harvest. His sole cover of the night, though, is an impeccable reading of Billy Bragg’s ‘St. Swithin’s Day’. Yet for all of these undoubted influences, the sound that Kip Berman produces as The Natvral is very much his own. He is a singular and delightfully self-deprecating talent, joking about the money he has cost various record labels throughout his career.

Seeing a young man in the audience sporting a T-shirt depicting the cover of the eponymous The Pains of Being Pure at Heart album, Kip Berman asks for any requests by his former band. I think he half-expected any response to be for a song from that more familiar debut record but instead the shout came out for ‘Eurydice’ from their third album Days of Abandon. ‘That’s so Emo” laughed Berman but having probably not touched the song for many years he tore right into it and despite having to truncate the tune mid-way through after forgetting what came next he made a tremendous fist of it.

A further Pains of Being Pure at Heart number, the gloriously wistful ‘Ramona’, is the penultimate song tonight, sandwiched delightfully between The Natvral’s new single ‘A Portrait of Sylvie Vartan’ – not a homage to the famous French yé-yé singer of the 1960s as the title might suggest but written for a friend in Japan who aspires to be that artist – and the closing ‘Home’ which captures the deep love he has for the life that he now enjoys.


The UK tour continues throughout April:

22nd: The Talleyrand – Manchester
24th: Esquires – Bedford
25th: Prince Albert – Brighton
26th: The Grace – London
27th: The Railway Inn – Winchester
28th: Rough Trade West – London

Photos: Simon Godley

More photos from this show are HERE

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