Matt Berry and The Maypoles.

15 May

To go to a gig not knowing any of the music (minus a few obligatory covers) and come out completely satisfied is a true testament to any artist or band. In this case it was on a wonderful Sunday evening at The Fleece in Bristol and the testament goes to Matt Berry, of I.T Crowd fame, and his Maypoles.

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While families around the country sat at home with their Sunday roasts, myself and two friends ventured to a location that has in the past been a one-stop platform for many upcoming artists throughout the decades, including Muse, Oasis and Amy Winehouse. Set just off one of the main roads, the thick stone-walled building with its bare and rustic interior is the perfect setting for an evening of ‘alternative’ (I have seen everything from Gabba to Industrial Metal at The Fleece) music.

At around 21:30 Matt Berry, preceded by his six-strong band, graced the stage with his presence to a warm applause and excited cheers. After listening to the support band Pugwash who took on a self-devised set list that would rival any original Britpop band, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a man who’s ‘funny’ is so much larger than his stature. What followed was a mix of haunting yet beautiful tracks, including ‘Take My Hand’, ‘A Song for Rosie’ and ‘The Pheasant’ all with a bit of funk thrown in. At times I felt like I had been transported back to the 1970’s where ‘chill’ and ‘vibe’ were the reoccurring buzzwords and soundtracks to films such as The Wicker Man and The Exorcist had been composed.

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Berry, who is undoubtedly funny, was a worthy front-man. His voice, whilst not able to reach diva-esque notes, was rich and soft with a heavy weight behind it and was accompanied by the soothing tones of the Florence-lookalike singer and clarinet player Cecilia Fage. Berry also showed great admiration and respect for his loyal fans by signing autographs and posing for photo’s until the large metal doors of the venue were closing. In a conversation with the bassist of Pugwash I proclaimed the comedian to be very humble for staying behind, to which he replied, “Humble?! You should see all the caviar he has upstairs…and champagne, and smoking jackets…”. Although an obviously fabricated image, this is precisely how I like to think of Matt Berry at any given moment.

He has done well to surround himself with such a talented and eclectic mix of people who looked to him for inspiration as he orchestrated the gig with various swings of his arms and clicks of his fingers, and they in turn shone in his presence. The lead guitarist was a highlight for me (apologies for not remembering his name – it has caused me hours of frustration). The speed at which he struck each chord was incredible and his animated style had the crowd well and truly rocking.

All in all it was a brilliant evening of entertainment. Hauntingly beautiful throughout and at times funny, it was a gig that I will hold dear for many years to come. While Matt Berry’s name will pull in the punters, the music will ensure they will stay forever, as fans.

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