The Lexington, London N1
I’ve been watching MORATOSO (which, incidentally, no-one ever calls them) since they were makeweights on a roots and bluegrass tour some years ago, and they’ve always been fun, entertaining and a guranteed Wolf-ish night (or afternoon, or extraordinarily early morning) out. I mean, what’s not to like about a plangent guitar/vocalist, a wilding violin casting shadow and texture and a good, solid bass fiddle player backing the whle thing up? Last night however – and without wishing to go too Marty Di Bergi about the whole thing – I got more, a whole lot more.
The band’s new album Stereoscope – and it is, indisputably, the whole band’s LP – has taken a darker, more experimental turn, and whereas their take on Smokestack Lightninghas always veered more toward the fever dream sweatings of a genuine incarcerate rather than an excuse for jam-night style excesses, that approach seems to have been extended to encompass the rest of the set too. Imagine Radiohead playing a John Martyn tribute night.
There’s a healthy dig through the new material, and with Chris Lynch on fiddle and Ben Berry on upright bass both taking both a bowed and plucked approach to their instruments, a bewildering array of soundscapes are provided from which O’Reilly, up front and singularly vocal, can take flight. It seems that Lynch is taking all the solos until late in the set Marty unleashes a torrent of notes from his resonator guitar that sound like white-hot rivets being shovelled from a furnace into a leaky cauldron. And I mean that in a good way.
I don’t know if you’ve seen that YouTube video where someone proves what a great drummer Ringo was by performing In My Life in the styles of both Ringo and a ‘proper’ drummer, but percussionist Matt Goff takes this to it’s purest conclusion by playing the songs throughout. Yes, he can build a song to a suitably climactic swamp-blues conclusion, but he can also post spare fills and the sort of improvisatory licks that made those long, rambling Doors instrumentals so bearable back in the day, or kep John Martyn in check when he’d seemingly lost control of the echoplex.
And how better to end the evening with an acoustic sit down in the middle of the audience and some gospel? Absolutely remarkable.
Top marks also to opening turn Michele Stodart, taking time off from the bass-playing day job and seeming genuinely surpised at the reverent reception given to her country torch song ballads of late night texts and relationship miasma. Camden soul in a raw state and all the better for it. And how lovely to see her still around at the end, grinning like a Cheshire Cat and enthusing over the headliners.
Healthy. Many beards of all hues. I think I caught the edge of one conversation about Fairport Convention and another, accompanied by some inappropriate body language, regarding one young gentleman’s intentions regarding his frustration with his lady paramour. Fortunately he hurt his ankle when he fell off a bench, which at least stopped him shouting over the band for a bit.
Everyone else was very-well behaved and did lovely harmonies on the Sister Rosetta Tharpe song which closed the evening.
It made me think..
Music is real. Let’s take it somewhere.