Gig Review: Martin Luke Brown at Rough Trade

Words: Izzy Hunter
Photos: Jade Vowles
Friday 02 June 2023
reading time: min, words

Following the release of his highly-anticipated debut album damn, look at the view ! Martin Luke Brown took to the stage of Rough Trade for an intimate evening of music and delight...

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As I entered the room, everyone was waiting quietly but eagerly for Brown to appear in the shadows. For the first time in ages, the crowd were sat down and whispering, setting the tone for Brown’s calming tunes for the evening. As he walked stage, he was greeted with claps and soft ‘woo’s’, it truly felt like the old-school style performances in a living room, and Rough Trade was the perfect setting for this intimate performance.

The evening was kicked off with my favourite track elsie, as he introduced the song to be about Leicester, his hometown. He quickly apologised to the room full of Nottingham locals as some of the audience let out a small giggle. Brown was armed with only his keyboard, but the tracks sounded exactly like the studio version. His voice cut through perfectly the small venue; you could quite literally hear a pin drop as he sang.

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I’ve been to a lot of events at Rough Trade, but I truly believe this was the most special down to Brown’s connection with the audience. He told us he didn’t have a set list or plan for the evening, but instead went with the flow and asked the audience for requests. Timid voices called out for their favourites, with nostalgia winning his heart first. A throwback track from way back in 2014, the track showed his dedication to music and how his style has changed since, with elements peeking through in his new album. 

The night went on as Brown performed love is a black hole ! – one of his most popular tracks. He told us how the track was written in ‘probably about thirty minutes’ and that he liked how ‘goofy’ it sounds. The notes that call back to a lullaby stood out in particular for me, especially as he described it as wanting to sound like wedding bells. The audience repeated back the lyrics "I’m scared too, but fuck it let’s go!" which echoed through Rough Trade. A very cute and romantic track that felt very special to be at the front of the crowd for. 

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Onto the title track of his debut album damn, look at the view ! which preceded with Brown telling the audience how it was written in ten minutes. He joked about how the album took over ten years to be brought to light, but in reality, all of the tracks were probably written together in about an hour. I love this track as the opening to the album, particularly the huge build towards the end of the song in the studio version. Brown attempted to recreate this (slightly impossible with just a piano), but I absolutely admired his efforts to utilise his vocals, laughing through it with the crowd. 

The most poignant moment from the evening for me was when Brown told the crowd that one of his friends from school was in the audience, before playing his track see u later x. The song describes that moment you realise you may not see your friends from school again after spending every waking minute with them for years, and it was particularly special to know someone was in the audience from his childhood. I felt myself welling up as he performed the song to such perfection, as did other members of the crowd.

The performance ended on some last requests from the audience, as Brown thanked us all for coming out and supporting him. As well as his debut album just being released, Brown teased us with some new collaborations in the works, including a brand-new band with his friends dodie, Orla Gartland, and Greta Issac.

Martin Luke Brown performed at Rough Trade Nottingham on 21 May 2023.


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