Martin Stephenson and the Daintees
LIVE at Newcastle City Hall (Dec 2015)
This was the first Daintees Christmas Party that I’ve missed in years; but thanks to the kind people at Daintees Towers it is being released initially as a two part download on Bandcamp; and (fingers crossed) if there’s enough interest as a proper Double CD and possibly LP later this year.
I hope that you are not already a Martin Stephenson fan when you read this; because you really do have a treat in store if you’re new to his music.
MG Stephenson wouldn’t recognise me if I bumped into him in the ASDA; but we have mutual friends dating back to his school days and every musical incarnation over the last 40 or so years.
This album download is split into two; with the music making up one ‘album’ and the between song ‘patter’ (an important part of any Martin Stephenson ‘show’) is available separately and is…….FREE!
For logistical reasons I will only tell you about the songs; but will say that when listening to ‘The Patter’ I giggled so long and hard I nearly wee’d myself on the X10 bus.
Enough! You say; tell me about the music.
Martin Stephenson and the (Penny) Daintees released their first album, Boat to Bolivia THIRTY YEARS; at the height of Thatcherism and the songs from that sound just as fresh and relevant when heard today in this concert.
The evening kicks off with a rather punchy Neon Skies which allows all four band members to get rid of any dust and cobwebs from their respective instruments.
Second song of the night is Little Red Bottle. Little Red Bottle??? I ask you. Many of this bands peers don’t have songs this good that they have to keep for their encores.
Then after a bottleneck drenched Crocodile Cryer, it’s the eye wateringly beautiful Coleen. Howaay man; my emotions are already in tatters and there’s still over an hour to go.
Over the years I’ve seen Stephenson’s albums in the Folk, Folk-Rock, Country, Soft Rock and Singer-Songwriter sections of records stores; which is both a good thing and a chore; as the man is impossible to pigeon hole (did I tell you that the Free download is bloody funny?) but covering all of those genres; plus having a guitarist in the legendary John Steel who can switch from Surf-Guitar to Western Swing in a heartbeat; means no two shows are ever the same.
Apart from being a mighty fine singer, songwriter and guitarist himself, Martin has surrounded himself with three excellent cohorts – guitarist extraordinaire John Steel, the North East’s finest thrombassist Chris Mordy and; drummer to the stars Ms. Kate Stephenson.
Speaking of which; there would have been a set-list at the outset but Martin’s brain works like a firework and a man’s shirt or a woman’s hairdo in the audience can set him off on a tangent only known to him…..and his magnificent bandmates.
If you think Dylan and Springsteen are the only ones who change the key or lyrics to suit their mood; check out Martin at various times tonight, when he will stop mid note because something has popped into his head and he simply must share it. The band stop on a sixpence to accommodate his whim; but pick up the beat in a nano-second. Can you think of anyone else that good? Me neither.
While I adore his last 5 or 6 albums; it’s these early songs that the fans filled the iconic City Hall to hear. Me & Matthew, Rain, Running Water and Look Down (featuring cousin Jamie who he cajoled onto stage).
Home town gigs always include references to family and friends that will be lost on tourists; but the intro to Home, which he originally wrote for his Mam, is turned into a eulogy for his Dad who had died only six weeks previously. This was the story I nearly wee’d myself listening too.
There are obviously an assortment of older less well known songs here too; the delightful Old Church, which I can’t remember hearing before; Love For The First Time (with a pretty chunky Ska back-beat) and my personal favourite, Loui’s which is about the days Martin and friends would sit in the renowned Sunderland cafe drinking frothy coffee and smoking tabs, putting the world to rights and watching the world go by on their way back from College. We all have a place like that in our memory bank; and these words speak for all of us.
All good things must come to an end I suppose; but the final three songs here are as good as music gets…..the anthemic Salutation Road, then the gentle Country swing of Look Before You Leap and finally Martin Stephenson and the Daintees signature tune….Wholly Humble Heart.
What a night, what an album and it will all be repeated in one form or another in a town near you sometime soon; because Martin tours non-stop, sometimes solo, sometimes as a duo; but because this isBoat to Bolivia’s 30th Birthday; expect to see the band in all its glory too.