According to Joshua Radin’s Twitter, The Beatles are his favourite band. I’m glad he told us because it’s not like he chose to include any of the Fab Four’s rampant experimentalism or wonderful humour in any of the songs played at the Academy tonight. The Ohio native instead treats us to an hour and a half of by-the-book, country-tinged pop, as bland and depressing as dry toast for dinner. Song after mediocre song drifts by, each intensely whispered verse and breakout chorus (restrained but with just a touch of optimism) meshing into each other to form a beige fog of over-sentimental inoffensiveness.
As news filtered through that Lissie, the scheduled support act, was cancelled and the last repetitive note of Joe Echo’s set rang out, the crowd quickly gathered, boyfriends in tow. Radin gracefully explains the origins of each song he plays, delivering each tale of deep emotional impact with his own brand of sad-sack self-deprecation. With inspiration coming from such varied sources as break-ups, hurricane Katrina, break-ups, being a musician and break-ups, it’s clear that this a man unafraid to lay his emotions on the table. It’s a shame however that this is all he does with them. The intense feelings (or should that be feeling?) are just laid out, simple and plain, wrapped up in gently-strummed, warm open chords to be indulged in and forgotten about. There is no attempt at any point to embrace these emotions, to push them, and therefore himself, into new realms of artistic representation and self-building creative acheivement. No, none of that at all.
This is music made to soundtrack ever so poignant moments on American TV shows. Sitting at the heart of what can only be called ‘Braff-core’, Radin is just another serious and overly sincere voice, a consistent clichÃ© that refuses to go away, at least as long as the likes of Grey’s Anatomy and Scrubs are around. But, lets move outside of this highly subjective view of his music for a moment and concentrate on the concert, on the show he gives his crowd. The songs rarely, if ever rise above a medium tempo, ‘mellow, not depressing’ as he says himself. Regularily eschewing the microphone to belt out his songs without the aid of amplification, he culminates this incredibly cheesy idea with a song played from inside the crowd during the one of the most obviously contrived and patronising encores this writer has ever seen.
The sad attempt at ‘rocking out’ at the end of the last song is as close as we get to an actual release, although that, like everything else on show tonight, is carefully constructed. He includes, as always apparently, the first song he ever wrote. ‘Winter’, at the end of the set-proper. His songwriting apparently hasn’t come far since. While this is innoffensive and boring, it is still dangerous music, numbing young minds with faux-sincerity as easily as the comedy-dramas it so often soundtracks.
Radin is obviously doing something right though, The Academy is packed tonight, and his fans clearly adore him. In many ways it’s easy to see why. The good looks, the quick and easy emotional connection, the sing-along choruses, it’s all so simple to sell. The potential is there for him to go massive on a global scale if marketed properly. The audience there tonight, of course, won’t care about a review like this, the lighters will continue to be waved and ‘I love you!’s will continue to be screamed. The best of luck in all your future exploits Mr. Radin, may our paths never cross again.