Review: Seán McGowan at The Joiners, Southampton

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Local favourite McGowan seemingly never fails to disappoint an audience, as he delivered an incredibly memorable performance to a packed room of excitable individuals.

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As the live music scene became a little quieter in Southampton, Seán McGowan still came to deliver two consecutive shows at The Joiners in the run-up to Christmas. An obvious local favourite, McGowan sold out his first show on December 20th with the second show on the 21st being rather packed too. Performing for just over an hour, there were plenty of moments worth mentioning, and attempting to summarise all the best bits would seem entirely impossible… but I will try.

I am unable to comment on the first two support acts as I unfortunately missed their performances. However I was incredibly grateful to catch Forbes’ performance, a local Southampton grime artist who showcased some addictive tunes which I just had to download when I got home.

Opening with an enchanting performance entirely acapella, the crowd were clearly very excited and after watching the three acts beforehand we were all ready to witness what McGowan had to deliver. One criticism I had of this opening was the fact that you could still hear some talking and laughing from the bar, but I guess that’s part and parcel of hosting a show at such an intimate venue.

After some excited cheers and claps, McGowan enthusiastically declared “let’s have a fuckin’ giggle then shall we!”, which was incredibly well-received by the crowd. The set-list was varied, as McGowan showcased some tunes from his newest EP Curate Calm, Create Chaos whilst also playing some fan favourites from Son of the Smith. 

Some particular memorable moments include the performance of ‘Autopilot’, which demonstrated the prettiest guitar duets between Sean and his guitarist Dean (who seemingly has his own dedicated fanbase as some passionate “DEANOOO” chants echoed throughout the venue at numerous times during the performance). ‘Cuppa Tea’ was another memorable song to see live, with its fast, excitable rhythm rallying up the crowd as everyone got moving.

‘Money’, from his newest EP, was also a tune rather memorable, with its depressingly humorous lyrics even better delivered live. The chorus is incredibly catchy and had many heads swaying across the venue. It also perfectly demonstrates McGowan’s powerful vocals. Out of all of the songs performed, however, a personal favourite of mine was ‘Off The Rails’ as he dedicated it to his friends from college in an emotional short introduction.

Alongside a plethora of wonderful tunes, McGowan also came across as one of the humblest musicians I’ve ever seen. Placing an emphasis on how the venue should be a “safe place” and highlighting the importance of respecting each other, I certainly felt a part of this friendly musical community. This was further evident in McGowan’s small laughs during ‘Neverland’ as much of the crowd were moving and singing along the lyrics – he seemed genuinely surprised at the crowd’s enthusiastic, warm response to his performance, and his clear happiness in performing was easily transferred to the crowd.

It was also so warming to witness an artist so genuinely grateful for grass-roots music venues like The Joiners; being a local from Shirley, McGowan made it incredibly clear just how much The Joiners means to him as it gave him a place to exist when he felt like he did not belong anywhere else. This humble nature, with such an obvious gratitude, contributed even more so to the greatness of his performance.

Additionally, McGowan’s short speeches had a warm humour to them, highlighting his local side. To add to the festivities, a Christmas hat was thrown onto him which lead to a humorous announcement “I feel like fucking Dappy”. These little comments contributed to the warm, friendly atmosphere of this gig in general, which were entirely solidified as the crowd shared a bottle of fizzy at the end as it got passed around the room.

Closing the show with a cover of The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’ really added to the festive spirit that was apparent within the venue throughout the night. I especially appreciated the iconic lyric addition, “fuck you Boris Johnson”, which was also well-received by the crowd.

To summarise this memorable performance, all I have to say is how incredibly important it is to catch Seán McGowan live at least once in your time in Southampton. I can guarantee you won’t regret it.

Seán continues touring in January, and you can buy tickets to his 2020 tour here

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Live Editor 2019/20. English student who loves writing about gigs.

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