LIVE: Dan Smith (Listener) @ Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes

By Chris Robinson

Part spoken word performer, part songwriter, and part comedian – spending an evening with Listener’s Dan Smith always feels like a privilege. Hearing his stories and getting an insight into his creative mind, all delivered in his thick Kansas accent, can’t help but put a smile on your face.

Supported by ex-The Chariot guitarist Jon Terrey, with his Mark Lanegan meets Jeff Buckley dark alt-rock songs, and Listener bandmate Kris Rochelle, whose Dallas Green ‘Sometimes’-era guitars and Ben Gibbard vocal style creates a beautiful ambience that breaks your heart, the lineup was a resounding success.

And then, the main event. Dan Smith took to the stage, awkwardly introducing himself and shooting a beaming smile to the crowd, lamenting on how you can unlock the “natural PCP in your mind”. His songs, while dealing with a wide range of emotions and topics, are generally a positive look on things, on finding meaning in various situations. It’s his delivery that is his most impressive asset, though.

Not so much a singer as a spoken word performer, Smith’s stream of consciousness style of vocals makes his songs come across like a dramatic performance of a fine piece of literacy, with added acoustic guitars. It’s the passion in his performance that draws you in, and makes Smith immediately likeable and impressive. Thousands of words pour from his mouth without so much as a breath or break in proceedings, leaving audience members lost for words.

Combining songs from his new ‘Still Life’ EP, introduced by Smith as “Still Life, like still water, y’know?” before discussing how water should be marketed as “the original drink”, Listener fans were not left disappointed with the addition of a few favourites thrown into the set, as well as requests from the crowd including Wooden Heart and personal favourite, My Five Year Plan.

Never without a smile on his face, Smith clearly loves what he does and is at home on the stage, it feels only right to support him with applause and the purchase of merch once he’s done. Chatting with him, he came across incredibly humble and thankful for all those who took time out of their day to come and see him, staying behind at the venue for some time to talk to fans and thank them personally – always with a warm tone to his voice.

A beautiful evening, with heartfelt songs, stunning lyrics and hilarious stories of ordering fish and chips on a ferry from the Netherlands in an Italian accent, Dan Smith is a treasure, well worthy of your time and money.