Remember The Bluetones? The 90s indie band that never really went away until 2011? I do, and as a massive Bluetones fan – largely due to Mark Morriss’s voice and song-writing prowess – I was eager to see him step out alone. And, seeing as the Notts Post couldn’t be arsed to publish my review, this review is exclusive to Stage Times. Just thought I’d get that in there…
Date: March 16, 2013
Venue: The Glee Club, Nottingham
For the un-initiated, Mark Morriss was the leading figure in The Bluetones – a band spawned in the early 90s and who only came to an end in 2011. As he takes to the stage, wine in hand, hirsute and alone for this acoustic tour, he appears in a mockingly self-deprecating mood, belittling his talent with a sly smile and a shifty wink, and joking about the fact that he now has the daunting task of bettering the hugely dexterous and intricate guitar prowess of his support man, Elliott Morris. “Who booked him as support? Terrible way of spelling ‘Morris’, too”, he quips.
Indeed, throughout the gig this banter and wit is relentless. He states that the Glee Club is a lovely place, like the set of Hollyoaks with blondes falling out of bars onto the waterside. He makes fun of his lazy approach to songwriting, blaming daytime quiz show Pointless for his lack of output. Prior to newie ‘Space Cadet’, he’ll pick fun at Liam Gallagher’s ‘Little James’, sarcastically confessing that the father-son song has been done by “greater artists than him”. He even announces the death of Morrissey, before hastily retracting the statement when gasps from the crowd are audible.
His deference is palpable, and his interaction with the audience is refreshing, paving the way for an intimate, sophisticated performance.
This engagement with the small but appreciative crowd even allows his failed attempt to cover Duran Duran’s ‘Rio’ to become a comedic masterstroke, as once again his patter with his audience becomes a major highlight, masking his frailties with the song. “Oh fack it!”, he concedes in his west London accent, as he cuts it short amid laughter and applause.
Elsewhere we get a mixture of old and new. It may come as a shock to learn that Morriss is now on his third solo record – his first came way back in 2008, while his sophomore effort came just last year. He softly reels out soulful, folk-tinged laments, perfect for the serene surrounds of the Glee Club.
But dotted between his new material – and betwixt choice cuts from his previous two records – are gems from The Bluetones’ arsenal. Keep the Home Fires Burning is first up, Bluetonic is unexpected but welcome, while Marblehead Johnson and Sleazy Bed Track – the stately show-stopper – are stripped-back masterpieces.
Morriss was on fine form, a song-com troubadour at his best. His (slight) return to the city was superb.