Monday 12 July 2021

Mark Morriss / Nigel Clark / Chris Helme / Neeve Zahra - Altrincham The Bowdon Rooms - 8th July 2021

The Seahorses, Dodgy and The Bluetones were three of the more recognisable names in the mid 1990s Britpop explosion and these days their front men are out on the solo tour circuit, delivering a dose of old favourites whilst writing new materials. Having struck up friendships, this socially distanced show not only has all three of them performing on their own but one of their first ever live performances of their new MCH (Morriss, Clark, Helme) super-group in the picturesque Bowdon Rooms in Altrincham.

Neeve Zahra opens up the evening and accompanied by two guitarists, the teenage singer-songwriter performs an impressive set of her own material, from a forthcoming EP according to the flyers on our table, and covers of the likes of The Beatles' I Will and Death Cab For Cutie's I Will Follow You Into The Dark that showcase a wonderfully evocative voice. She's joined by Chris Helme for a cover of Neil Young's Helpless, but it's her own songs that really stand out.

Chris Helme is first up of the three headliners and his setlist mainly focuses on Seahorses' crowd-pleasers to get the audience as going as you can in a socially-distanced seated environment. Classics like Hello, You Can Talk To Me, Love Is The Law and Blinded By The Sun are much loved by those, and it's most of us, who lived through the time these were staples on major radio stations as Britpop ruled the roost. He adds in a cover of Rod Stewart's Ooh La La, starts then stops The Boy In The Picture as there's a little rustiness after so long off the road, but that's immediately forgiven because of his unassuming nature and the timeless qualities of these songs.

Nigel Clark's set focuses more on his Make Believe Love album that came out last year, joking that this is in effect his album tour. You Can Hold My Hand and Wheels Of Time sit alongside Dodgy favourites like In A Room and Big Brown Moon in the set as well as an excellent cover of Tom Waits' I Hope I Don't Fall In Love With You. Also a little ring rusty, he laughs this off with a humour that captures the intimate mood of the evening perfectly - the songs feel like they've delivered with a sincerity and honesty rather than a polished rehearsed turn up and take the money approach. He leaves us with a medley of Dodgy's two best known songs Staying Out For The Summer which he segues at the end into a short blast of Good Enough.

Mark Morriss is the last of the headliners to take the stage. Whilst The Bluetones have been reliving their past since their reformation in 2015, Mark has been busy building a catalogue of his own albums and this set provides an insight into both as well as his influences with covers of Eurythmics' Love Is A Stranger and Scott Walker's Duchess. The Bluetones selections provide something for both the casual followers - Cut Some Rug, Never Going Nowhere and Marblehead Johnson - as well as a criminally ignored Firefly from their final album A New Athens - whilst Roll Away from 2019's Look Up shows his songwriting craft hasn't dimmed. He lovingly takes the mickey out of Chris and Nigel and jokes about the affluent surroundings of the venue.

The evening finishes with a short four-song set of Morriss, Clark and Helme, the supergroup the three of them have created to tour with Shed Seven later this year and create an album. They start with a cover of John Prine's The Sound Of Loneliness before showcasing some of the new material they've been writing over the past few months. The Crosby Stills and Nash influences they've quoted are very much to the fore, strong solid melodies with a country feel to them in parts where they share vocal and guitar responsibilities sat on a stool. It's perfect for this beautiful room and it'll be interesting to see just how that translates to a boozed-up pre-Christmas crowd.

Mark Morriss' website can be found here.  He is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Nigel Clark is on Facebook and Twitter.

Chris Helme's website can be found here and he is on Facebook and Twitter.

Neeve Zahra is on Facebook.


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