12 February 2016 at The Poppy and Pint, Nottingham
The last time I saw Mark Morriss perform live was in a chilly pub in Derby last November with a select group of other fans. Tonight’s venue is altogether different in both experience and numbers. It’s sold out for starters and instead of standing and doing the dead leg shuffle, I have a seat. Yes, an actual seat! I’m not used to such novelties when attending gigs I have to say so this was going to be interesting.
The venue and organisation is great and is all thanks to local company Trap 6 Events who have done a sterling job of putting this together. Mark hasn’t played in Nottingham since October 2014 so it’s nice to have him back on my home turf for the evening and I was looking forward to a great night.
The room (which is above the lovely Poppy and Pint pub) had a raised stage at one end and when Mark joins us with just his guitar for company he likens it to taking assembly at school. The crowd laugh and we settle in for an evening of not just wonderful music, but also affable humour from someone who is clearly comfortable with being on stage.
It was a timely day for a gig as it happens due to the fact that the Bluetones debut album, Expecting To Fly, had reached the grand old age of 20 on the same day. As the front man of the popular band, I think it was pretty obvious that the audience would be expecting some tracks to be played from the album during the evening. And we weren’t disappointed. Bluetonic and The Fountainhead were met with great applause, but there was an anticipation for the song everyone wanted to hear. That would come later though.
We were treated to tracks from all three of his solo albums including I’m Sick and the beautiful Unwanted Friend from 2008’s Memory Muscle, Low Company and the crowd pleasing jollity of Consuela from 2014’s A Flash of Darkness and from the latest album of cover versions entitled The Taste of Mark Morriss, it was the Weezer song Don’t Let Go along with the Scott Walker classic Dutchess.
One of the many things I love about watching Mark is his natural easy going humour between songs which allows him to bond with the audience. Even when he has a little dig and calls us unprintable names, it’s all good. We laugh along and enjoy the joke as it’s all part of the evenings experience. Someone shouts out that they want him to play After Hours to which he replies without missing a beat “what the big piano number? Yeah, sorry I’ve left my piano in the car”.
We’re treated to not just one, but two encores tonight as the crowd genuinely don’t want the set to end. Still the song everyone wants to hear hasn’t been played, but when Mark starts to strum a familiar chord patten the room start to sing “where did you go” only to be met by a humorous version of the East 17 song Stay Another Day instead which is a homage to Brian Harvey and his jacket potato fetish. The crowd roars with laughter, joins in with the chorus and forgets all about Slight Return.
But not for long as it’s one of the final numbers of the evening, played with gusto but underneath a total disengagement by our minstrel (his words not mine) which after twenty years I guess is something to be expected. In a fitting tribute to David Bowie there was also a lovely rendition of Modern Love to close the proceedings. And then it was all over.
I have seen Mark numerous times over the last few years and he never fails to deliver a great show. For someone who is an exceptional musician it does pain me that he is not getting the exposure that he so richly deserves so this was therefore wonderful to see him play to a full crowd who were totally immersed in the music and having a good time.
If you have the chance to see him perform, I would highly recommend it. It’s not just about taking a nostalgia trip for Bluetones fans, it’s a marvellous acoustic experience by someone who genuinely loves music and can keep the crowd content with his humour and stage presence. Just don’t ask him to play Slight Return.
Check out his upcoming shows on his website here.