The Monarch, in the heart of Camden town, has become something of a home to the artists of Xtra Mile recordings, having seen many performances by the likes of Ben Marwood, Chris T-T and Frank Turner – among others. Tonight, Xtra Mile’s own Oxygen Thief graces the stage.
Tonight’s support act is B-Sydes (★★★), consisting of singer songwriter Benjamin Sydes and his acoustic guitar. He plays a set of stripped-down folk music which he delivers with passionate vocals. The choruses are catchy, but most of his songs sound pretty similar to each other and towards the end of his set it’s hard not to feel a little bored.
Oxygen Thief (★★★★) – a.k.a. Barry Dolan – takes to the stage around 10pm, by which time the room is packed full. He dives straight into fan favourite Modesty is Dead, which has the crowd singing along at the top of their lungs from the offset.
Although it’s a solo, acoustic performance, the music is bursting with energy, and has Dolan bounding around the stage as he plays. His performance has a sense of urgency; his songs are fast and furious, and his vocals sharp and powerful. Oxygen Thief’s music is distinctive in its unusual harmonies and time signatures; it’s somewhat reminiscent of Million Dead – although acoustic, it’s somehow just as heavy and just as loud.
In the middle of his set, Dolan gives the audience a live performance of his new EP, One Day This Will All Be Fields, from start to finish, including its two bonus tracks. Opening song Badge of Dishonour gets a fantastic response from the audience, who already know all the words and sing them enthusiastically back at him. The last song, On Your Easy Marks, Get Set, Go, which the singer wrote about ‘Dick Clegg’, is another highlight, and has the whole crowd yelling ‘I want my vote back’ over and over.
It’s hard to find an artist who plays with more raw passion than Oxygen Thief. With his driving rhythms and the energy he plays with, he’s no doubt one of the UK’s most exciting live solo acts.