The Greys, Brighton
6 September 2010
A quick rush for tickets when news of this one came in: a singer with Iain Matthews’ fine pedigree - Fairport Convention in the days of Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny, Matthews Southern Comfort (complete with a No 1 single*), and some fine solo albums in the 70s (Tigers Will Survive particularly recommended) - now heading for the tiny stage at The Greys, a friendly pub in Brighton with a capacity on a par with the Tom Thumb Theatre.
Iain was playing with a Dutch guitarist/mandolinist, BJ Baartmans, and promoting what is billed as a new MSC album – though Iain is the only member of the original band featured on it…hmmm.
The good news is that Iain’s voice is as pure and true as ever and that BJ is a great guitarist, evoking the tones and textures of a mellow Hendrix, and pretty hot on mandolin too. And there was the bonus of a guest appearance for a few songs by Andy Roberts, previously in Plainsong with Iain, and also on excellent form. The capacity crowd – virtually all of whom I would say have been on the planet since well before What We Did On Our Holidays hit the racks – were warm and enthusiastic.
The bad news was that most of the material, though pleasant enough, failed really to cut it. There was a marked contrast between the twin high spots - Tom Waits’ 'Heart of Saturday Night' and the (probably inevitable, but don’t knock it) encore of 'Woodstock' - and most of the rest. Nothing too awful, but a tendency towards plonking and predictable rhymes. Certainly nothing in the class of
'the crack of the pool balls, neon buzzing
telephone's ringing, it's your second cousin '
'we are stardust, we are golden'.
Let’s not make the best the enemy of the good. A very nice evening, and great that Iain’s still out there, doing what he does. But, all you great singers out there, don’t strain too hard to write great songs. There’s plenty of them out there; more than enough to go around.
* for 3 weeks in 1970 - replacing Freda Payne's 'Band of Gold' and followed by Jimi's 'Voodoo Chile'. Respect certainly due for that company.