The Metro Gnome

Three hours and 15 minutes! That's how long the Gnome and a couple hundred devotees stood at the Crocodile, following the bouncing Badly Drawn Boy set last week. About a third of the original audience dispersed before the show finally ended, for real, around 1am Tuesday. Damon Gough, leader of the quintet and the man who walked away with this year's prestigious Mercury Prize in England (awarded for artistic merit and worth the equivalent of $29,000), had hinted at conclusion seven previous times—he'd announce, "This'll be our last song," play it, and then change guitars, light a cigarette, take a sip of whiskey, hug a bandmate, or launch into a soliloquy. The songs from his prize-winning disc, The Hour of Bewilderbeast, made up only part of the set, as did songs from his four England-only EPs. The chatty, informal performance, which included the frumpy Gough's winding through the audience to dance and hug mostly women, charmed us. The most moving moment of the lengthy night came when Gough expressed his admiration for Seattle and talked elliptically about his love for Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. Veering between sincerity and blasphemy, Gough recounted how that day's plane flight into Seattle, his first, had forced him to think about Cobain, especially when he passed over the mountains. "What range is that? The Rockies, is it?" he asked to a peal of laughter. Gough recalled hearing Nirvana for the first time and thinking it was like the Pixies, only better, and exclaimed that he wished Cobain were still alive, standing in the back of the Croc so he could look at Badly Drawn Boy and see they rocked as hard as Nirvana.

As much as Seattle welcomed Gough, New York seemed to revile him during Badly Drawn Boy's stop at the Knitting Factory a few days earlier. The Gnome hears that about half the crowd left the two-and-a-half-hour performance early, and The New York Times' Jon Pareles noted in a review, "Onstage, Badly Drawn Boy outstayed his welcome. He proclaimed himself an admirer of Bruce Springsteen and emulated the length of a Springsteen show without its pacing." No need to get snippy, Jon!

For the Gnome's part, he'll take Badly Drawn Boy's whimsy over a rote performance any day. Like when the Delgados, a 10-piece Scottish ensemble, played the Croc a few days after Gough. Their latest album, The Great Eastern, was also short-listed for the Mercury Prize, and their live set expertly recreated songs from that and their previous two discs. But while Emma Pollock's masterful vocal delivery was worth the price of admission and the string section added painterly flourishes to the often lovely songs, the Delgados' static stage presence subdued the crowd better than tear gas could. They made the Gnome sleepy! You betcha.

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