Lewis Capaldi review – the tears of pop's characterful clown

Apollo, Manchester
Resembling an 80s darts player, the larky Scot starts his biggest tour yet with his patented blend of goofy humour and heartbreaking ballads

As Lewis Capaldi is fond of observing, he’s the last person you’d expect to become the biggest new pop star in the country. With his satin tour jacket and bedraggled mousy hair, the 23-year-old looks as if he stumbled across a picture of 1980s darts legend Eric Bristow and declared, “That’s the image!” His stage banter includes telling the audience, “I’ve got the shits. I’m going to try and get through the show without pooing my pants.” Titling last year’s debut Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent didn’t stop the album – and mammoth single Someone You Loved – becoming 2019’s biggest seller.

The Scot was apparently discovered by his manager after uploading songs to SoundCloud, a heartwarming tale of DIY that belies the teams of co-songwriters (including crack production trio TMS) behind his smashes. Which doesn’t make Capaldi any less genuine or funny, to the point that he could cut it as a comic if he weren’t making such a fine fist of being a fantastic, characterful pop star. It takes him just two numbers to trigger screaming Capaldimania. The waving arms and crowd singalongs are reminiscent of a cup final, or how 1970s punters remember gigs by Rod Stewart and the Faces.

As with young Sir Roderick, there’s a chasm between Capaldi’s boozy, sweary, jokey persona and the hurting soul in song. He dismisses his breakup anthems as “fucking depressing”, but the sadder they are, the louder the crowd sing with him. Each tune is tailored to his epic, Joe Cocker bellow. Hollywood perfectly skewers the feeling when a relationship is dying (“When you’re just a step away from falling apart, do you ever feel like going back to the start?”) while Bruises dissects the aftermath. Someone You Loved is raw and real – “I let my guard down and then you pulled the rug, I was getting kinda used to being someone you loved.” The song’s devastated heartbreak isn’t at all diminished by the singer leading into it by wearing a pair of comedy plastic sunglasses, to look as goofy as he can.

• At Apollo, Manchester, 3 March; then touring.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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