What sounds can you make with just your body? Most us can manage the usual: speaking, shouting, applause. The odd laugh. An impression of a pig. But what about a rattlesnake? A dubstep bass drop? Miles Davis’ trumpet? Tom Thum can manage all this and far more, leaving his audience giggling helplessly and applauding ferociously – in fact, we make most of the noises we’re capable of as a tribute to this master of beatboxing and sound-making in general.
The pair are clearly good friends and their chemistry onstage is palpable, but it often feels as though they can’t be bothered to make the show any better than it already is.
The show is an amalgamation of singer/songwriter Jamie MacDowell and beatboxing champ Tom Thum’s considerable talents. “We’re tired but really excited,” drawls MacDowell, while failing to look particularly excited and drily thanking the empty front seats for coming to the show. Things pick up with their second song, set in the Wild West, which Thum introduces with an incredible soundscape including eerie wind, saloon doors creaking and pistol shots. Thum is a consistently interesting gimmick for much of the show as MacDowell’s backing track, infusing songs with his personality and adding incredible new sound effects as the wry MacDowell strums and sings along.
They cut their own material with covers, including a hilarious moment involving MacDowell’s flowing locks as he sings I Will Survive. His better moments happen when he talks earnestly about his love of old soul and jazz, or when he undercuts his love of hip-hop with a hilariously twee half-rap called The Believer, interspersed with Thum’s police sirens and aggressive vinyl scratches. Their joint interpretation of Portishead’s Glory Box is truly excellent, as is Thum’s fascinating explanation of his complex tech.
The use of shock and awe tactics undoes them towards the show’s end though, when the pair’s arsenal is noticeably spent. Sounds that initially have the audience agog – like Thum’s trumpet noise – feel stale and annoying towards its close. As they themselves remark, their transitions need work: many of their songs are new and unknown to the audience, but sometimes their explanations leave us in the dark. The pair are clearly good friends and their chemistry onstage is palpable, but it often feels as though they can’t be bothered to make the show any better than it already is.
Still, the incredible sounds you’ll hear coming from these two men and a guitar are worth the price of the ticket alone. You’ll applaud. You’ll laugh. You might even squeal.