Sunday 15 February 2015

Matt Berry and The Maypoles at The Forum (Kentish Town), Friday 13th February 2015

I was privileged to get the chance to see one of my favourite musicians and his amazing band once again recently. Despite being knackered from a gruelling slog at work, this marked the start of a much-needed half term, and what better way to do it than to get on a train to London and cleanse myself of the daily grind!

For those not in the know, Matt Berry is an English comedian and actor, known for cult TV shows like Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, The IT Crowd, House of Fools and Toast of London. As with the last time I saw him live, I suspect that much of his audience know him from his TV work, whereas I am more of a fan of his music. Growing up in a household of folk and prog rock synth music, I think it was only a matter of time when I found a love for it myself. As a teen it was all about the 90s R n B and 70s Motown, but now (as blog readers will know), I lean more towards folk music.

This show started with Mark Morris from The Bluetones doing some of his solo stuff. My favourite song he played was called Space Cadet. His voice sounded great on this track and reminded me ever-so-slightly of James Walsh from Starsailor (or should that be the other way round?) Morris also plays in The Maypoles with Matt Berry and returned on stage for the main set.

Talking of The Maypoles, this group of musicians put on a hell of a show! A highlight of the gig was the song Snuffbox (which comes from Matt Berry's comedy series under the same name). There were adrenaline-filled solo sections from Phil Scragg on bass, James Sedge on the drums and a playoff between Graham Mann on keys and Berry on his synth. There's a real sense of humour between the musicians on stage and although they must have performed these songs together many times over the years now, they genuinely take delight in each other's performance. 

On the prog track, Solstice, Andy Vickery was captivating in his solo, and Cecilia Fage's harmonies with Berry were stunningly haunting. Having heard the set list live before, in the larger venue, the sound was better, but I also think they have perfected some of the arrangements, particularly in terms of the harmonies between Berry and Fage. Medicine and October Sun (my favourite tracks from the album, Kill the Wolf) sounded more polished in my opinion.  

As an encore treat, film composer, David Arnold, played the Bond theme with the band. It was a great finale and Matt looked in his element! 

It really was worthwhile travelling up to see this show because Matt Berry and his band make feel-good, yet multi-faceted music. You can hear Berry's influences in his tracks (I know he's a Mike Oldfield fan, for example); for me, although I'm no 'muso' like my younger brother, it has some kind of comforting nostalgia to it. The Pheasant (which was an excellent first encore choice!), has a particular familiarity to it. Without really being able to put my finger on it, there's something there in the combo of the synth and some of the drum patterns that reminds me of stuff my dad would have played on vinyl.

We didn't stop to meet Matt and the band as we wanted to get the tube back, but they were out signing albums and meeting fans as before. I really hope Matt pursues his music career with another album in the future. He is becoming more and more well-known for his achievements in comedy, TV and film, but it would be sad if he didn't put out more music. If you like music that's off the beat and track of the charts, have a listen to him on Youtube. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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  1. So lucky you got to see him! I am also a big fan but I live in the States. Good news though, Matt has said in a recent interview that he plans to release an album some time this year!

    1. Thanks for the heads up- that's good news! Maybe he'll play over in the States sometime, as he must have plenty of fans where you are? Is he well-known?