The Church of Malcolm

music review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Published 19 Aug 2015

Saved not by Jesus but by rock’n’roll, Malcolm Doherty is an unlikely spiritual leader. His “church” is a gig, his congregation an intermittently hand-clapping crowd. Having narrowly avoided death after being diagnosed with leukaemia, Doherty is here to spread the joy of being alive, one song at a time.

Life-affirming though the aim may be, Doherty’s version of life is chock-full of banalities. His overarching, uncontroversial message is “music is the key; music is the answer”. Other not-so-startling insights include the revelation that “beauty comes from within” and life is all about finding happiness. It’s the Hallmark of live entertainment. 

Doherty links together a series of songs with anecdotes from his life and an account of his illness and recovery. There’s a brief guest spot—Scottish comedian Ashley Storrie on the night I attend—and a couple of semi-starry video appearances from the likes of Pakistani-born musician Rumer. Otherwise, the screen behind Doherty and his band looks like an episode of Top of the Pops from the '70s or '80s, all garish swirls of colour and awkwardly overlaid images. Think flowers blooming and clouds skimming across skies.

The songs themselves, with titles like 'Diamonds and Elephants' and lyrics as naff as Doherty’s mottos, are mostly forgettable. It’s hard not to listen and ask, “why?” He might claim to be spreading music, love and happiness, but this cliché-ridden service feels as though it’s doing more for Doherty than for the “brothers and sisters” he preaches to.