Live Review: Micah P Hinson @ Stereo, Glasgow, November 2nd 2008

Tonight Micah Paul Hinson plays Glasgow’s Stereo, a somewhat cavernous venue located beneath a vegan restaurant and bar. It resembles an abandoned industrial warehouse, and having seen Micah play acoustic in far more intimate surroundings, one can’t help but wonder how – despite the aid of a backing band – his organic, often subtle strains will sound in such a hollow venue.

Despite being on tour in support of the Red Empire Orchestra Album, tonight’s set draws equally from all four of Micah’s full length albums. The Gospel of Progress was his raw, impressive debut and with each subsequent release Hinson has added further strings to his already potent bow.

For most of the show Micah plays an electric guitar, backed by an organ (played by his wife), a drum kit and on some songs a banjo, and tonight’s show is a far more exciting live experience than his purely acoustic shows. Having garnered a lot of praise in the broadsheets, much of Micah’s audience is made up of swaying couples , most of whom appear positively terrified at what begins to unfold before their eyes. Any concerns about Micah ‘filling’ this venue are allayed within the first two songs – he storms through a rendition of the beautiful ‘Close your Eyes’ with the wild eyed anger and electric leg of a young Joe Strummer.

Tonight, Micah transforms many of his delicate, affecting songs into driving, screaming punches that often feel on the edge of collapse. He’s an intensely magnetic man, and whilst the mellifluous nature of his songs is somewhat lost in this setting, the brute force of the performance more than makes up for any gripes about tuning or timing.

As the show goes on, it becomes evident that there are two Micah’s in attendance tonight- there’s the ranting, sweating almost deranged young man who comes alive every time he straps on his electric guitar, and the more restrained, subtle and tuneful Micah who emerges when behind his acoustic. Ultimately, both Micah’s are powerful and utterly mesmerizing. An acoustic rendition of ‘As You Can See’ reveals the hope in his music, a hope so apparent on Hinson’s records yet often masked tonight when his inner demons manifest themselves in guttural screams and battered chords.

The acoustic numbers draw the largest cheers from the crowd, clearly confused at the intensity of the electric numbers- understandably so, given that Hinson’s screaming tendencies are hardly even hinted at on his albums. When latest single “When We Embraced” is played towards the end of the set – with the guitar and banjo chiming pleasantly together – it simply pales in comparison with the sheer energy that preceded it.

Closing his set with ‘Patience’, complete with the overpowering screams and feedback that mesmerized half of the crowd whilst terrorizing the others, Micah P Hinson is certainly a more entertaining live prospect than your average ‘tortured genius’ lauded by the chattering classes. Just make sure to bring earplugs if you’re of a sensitive disposition…

Words: Mark Williamson