MARK MORRIS // THE FULFORD ARMS, YORK

Our independent venue week exploits were brought to a close with a visit to another of York’s cracking small venues, The Fulford Arms. This was our 3rd gig of what has proved to be a pretty inspirational week of artists big and small supporting small venues all across the country.

MARK MORRIS

★★★★☆

Tonight we were graced with Mark Morris, better known as the frontman of Britpop favourites ‘The Bluetones’. Mark has been a regular visitor to the great city of York in recent years and has supported IVW within the city’s walls on a number of occasions. He has also made intimate gigs in the city a bit of a habit and frankly I hope it is one he doesn’t kick anytime soon.

Playing festivals in front of multiple thousands is always a highlight and I have enjoyed many where the atmosphere is simply electric. However there is something very special about a seasoned, polished performer plying his trade in a room full of no more than a couple of hundred people, if that. It brings a level of intimacy and engagement with the audience that is very hard to create on a bigger stage and tonight was no different. His tale of how Bluetones track ‘The Fountainhead’ is about his relationship with his grandfather was a typical example of sharing with the audience and adds a real depth to what is an already excellent song. The stage was set for an evening of sharing, great songs, banter and laughter.

I recall watching Billy Connolly on TV many years ago where he described how his early career began as a folk singer where he would tell stories and jokes in between songs. Over time the stories became longer, the songs fewer and before long he was a touring comedian on his way to international superstardom. Now I’m not suggesting Mark Morris will follow the Big Yins lead but I can rarely recall laughing so much at any music event I have ever attended. Roland’s pasta Faux Pas and the new deal with Boots the chemist to promote erectile dysfunction will live as long in the memory banks as any of the top notch tunes on offer tonight. There was even time to offer blessings to a sneezy punter in the front row half way through singing his solo number ‘I’m Sick’. Even Morecambe and Wise would have struggled to pull off that sort of timing!!

Comedy aside though this was a music gig and a ruddy good one at that. To be fair I arrived expecting to hear quite a few of the Bluetones classics and I wasn’t disappointed with Cut Some Rug (now forever known as Rolands pasta song), Bluetonic, Sleazy Bed Track and of course the grandfather inspired The Fountainhead all making an appearance and all equally well received. However it was Marks solo stuff that really ‘had me at hello’. Many were songs I had not heard before and it’s easy to overlook behind all the banter and laughs just what a terrifically talented songwriter Mark Morris is. ‘Rimini’ ‘Never Going Nowhere’ and ‘Low Company’ were all delivered with pinpoint precision with his unique and exquisite vocal tones.

The encore took us in all sorts of directions with his particularly impressive solo number ‘Harry Rag’ and an impromptu cover of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give you Up giving the crowd an opportunity for a feel good singalong before proceedings were brought to a close with the Bluetones classic ‘If’ serenaded in fine style with as many na na na na’s as you could shake a stick at.

Overall this was a top class night with a top class performer, look out for his new album ‘Look Up’ due for release this summer through Reckless Yes records. If tonight was anything to go by you won’t be disappointed.

REVIEW BY: ROGER MCGIVERN

The Modern Record