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Review: Nick Mulvey @ Bristol Beacon

Mulvey's 10 year anniversary performance was a touching yet troubling meditation on the earth's pains in a time of crisis.

By Benji ChapmanCo-Deputy Music Editor

Nick Mulvey began as a musician with Portico Quartet in 2006 before he launched a solo career in 2011. Following breakout success in 2014, his Mercury Prize nominated debut album First Mind was met with a 3-year quiet before its follow-up, Wake Me Up Now, arrived in 2017 as well as New Mythology in 2022. Revisiting his first album in 2024, Mulvey's performance was a unifying and sympathetic celebration of intimacy during tragic times.

First Mind is one of the many albums in my life that takes me back to being younger. An ode to human connection, the record instantly returns me to snapshot memories of the hazy summers during lockdown and landscapes in the Welsh countryside explored with my family.

When my older sister introduced me to Nick Mulvey I can vividly recall her shining enthusiasm; making the pilgrimage to see him at Larmer Tree Festival in 2018 following her GCSE's, where she returned with a bundle of stories about how wholesome and captivating his performance was.

Whenever I hear 'Fever To The Form', I'm 10 years old again in Wales, sat around a campfire among loved ones. As I lean back into the soundscapes 11 years down the track, the world gets drowned out by the music and I can feel myself gazing once more into the flames whilst the melodies lift my eyes to the stars.

Sitting around those fires I can remember Mulvey speaking the words I wanted to say to the people I cared about- but struggled to find myself. This is something I find reflected best in his song 'Unconditional', a celebration of the irreplaceable feelings of holding people we care for closely with a selfless love which transcends the norms of a need to be recognised.

An artist who has been motivated by spiritual and social rather than financial concerns, Mulvey's sparce releases focus on the themes of spiritual and personal connections as well as humanitarian concerns following global events such as the 2015 European migrant crisis.

When the Beacon Hall's doors swing open, I arrive halfway through Mulvey's first song, 'Juramidam': the 4th track on First Mind. Stomping onstage to the scratches of his acoustic guitar, his movement is met with a reciprocated sway from the audience who join Mulvey in motion.

Nick Mulvey @ Bristol Beacon | Benji Chapman

Mulvey stokes the audience into an inferno as the song reaches its climax. Its infectious rhythm and ringing harmonics from his guitar bounce around the hall. Between flashes of the lights, the walls of concert hall fade and physical space becomes liminal. The crowd is transported to a place elsewhere.

Speaking with sincerity, Mulvey thanks the audience and recollects his times spent in London during the writing of First Mind. Similarly huddled around the place I discovered Mulvey, the grotty fireplace of his flat accompanied his writing of the album as he details how he would trial demos of his tracks to flatmates and friends between experimental ventures of technique between classical fingerstyle and precussive strumming debuted at open mic nights in London.

Laughter features throughout the night between particularly teary-eyed moments. These come both from the personal stories which Mulvey recalls as well as a universal sense of concern for state of the world amid a crisis in Palestine, which marks a moment of intense contemplation.

Mulvey plays a poem by Palestinian writer Refaat Alereer who was killed in December 2023 alongside his brother, brother's son, sister and her three children in an Israeli airstrike. There is total silence in the room as Mulvey channels the fatigued traumas of the world singing, "no more I love you's", during an Annie Lennox cover.

A sense of tiredness in the world is arguably at an all time high, a world which is reminded every day of the atrocities that are being committed during our timeline. To be among a crowd of mourning people was both internally cathartic and darkly concerning.

I was marked at the end of the show with an intensely profound gratitude that I still have my family and loved ones in my life. For almost the whole gig, my thoughts had been of my family and sister who feel so intrinsic to the music. These flashes of tender moments culminated with his song 'Cucurucu'.

As the song played out, my vision became swirly amid a wash of tears. The song lifted me from the venue down the memories which accompany my discovery of Mulvey. A visitation of "the vista of my years", the lyrics could not have more perfectly matched the experience. Wiping my eyes the tender feeling turned to a smile as I looked to the people around me who were also glassy-eyed.

We owe a lot to Nick Mulvey for continuing to write poetry for a world which is quite possibly reaching an exhausted twilight. Teasing a release in June this year, his words of spiritual wisdom will surely be needed in the months to come.

Featured Image: Benji Chapman

Have you re-listened to First Mind this year?