Friday, 2 May 2014

Martin Stephenson and The Daintees

Òran Mór, Glasgow 2nd May 2014

Martin Stephenson and the Daintees

I've been a fan of Martin George Stephenson since the Boat to Bolivia album but for some reason, until recently I only owned two of his fairly extensive repertoire of Daintees albums. Namely: Boat To Bolivia (1986) and Gladsome, Humour & Blue (1988), and none of his many solo contributions. There are many tracks from these albums that you'll no doubt recognise, even if you aren't sure who they are by: Crocodile Cryer, Slow Lovin', Boat to Bolivia, Little Red Bottle, Coleen and Wholly Humble Heart.

Martin is a Durham native, who now lives in Invergordon in the Scottish Highlands, where he also runs his own small label for up and coming artists, Barbaraville.

I heard that Martin was on an extensive tour of the UK this year and promised to make good my lack of fan support - and anyway, I had also read that the new album ‘California Star’ (Nov 2013) was already being heralded as the Daintees’ finest work since ‘Boat To Bolivia,’ and on first listening I had to agree. 
The Òran Mór venue is a relatively recent (2004) refurbishment of the  Kelvinside Parish Church which was built in 1862. This was my first visit, and I was quite impressed. 
It was great to see such a good turn out, and it was also good to see the mix of ages - plenty of youngsters among the first-time-around fans. Martin and the band bound onto the stage and were greeted with the same enthusiasm that they received when I last saw them in 1990-something. The band were: John Steel (guitar), Kate Stephenson [no relation] (drums), Chris Mordey (bass) & Finn Macardle (percussion & bongos) - some details about the Daintees band here.
"This is our 3rd gig on the Gladsome Humour & Blues Tour" announced Martin, "and it's great to back in Glasgow where they appreciate the jokes and don't get upset when I swear". "I love the faces they pulled when I used the C-word in Windsor" he pulls a not-very-happy face "They do this neighbourhood-watch-face thing" he says with a huge grin.
The first song was the sing-along There Comes A Time, then Slaughter Man. The sound was good, the band were great (Steel's guitar and Stephenson's drums in particular). He dedicated The Wait to Anne Stephenson, the violinist who played on the Gladsome, Humour & Blues album and whose haunting violin made this track so memorable. 
I Can See and The Old Church Is Still Standing followed. He dedicated Wholly Humble Heart to Billy Mackenzie. The version of Me & Matthew (In the greenhouse my Grandfather and me) was beautiful. When they launched into an up-tempo version of Nancy with some lovely duelling guitar, the crowd could restrain themselves no more and the first bout of dancing began. 
Goodbye John (July was a fruitless month) was introduced as a "Stream of consciousness that ended with a tent in the duvet erection". 
I Pray lacked the saxophone of the original, but they made up for it with some restrained but beautiful guitar playing and vocal harmonies. The reflective and melodic Even The Night (has turned it's back on me) was in the same vein with understated beautiful guitar arrangement and the whole crowd sang along. ("Great singing Glasgow - that was really nice")
Interlaced between the timeless songs of love, sadness, happiness and memories, Martin's anecdotes about his time supporting various acts in the 70s and 80s were laugh out loud funny (The Smiths came in for a few choice swearwords; Roddy Frame was a talented wee kid, but a good lad). Stephenson's love for the music is obvious and he never stops grinning.
Get Get Gone and Running Water were signals for the second bout of unrestrained dancing and this time everyone joined in. But Martin had been enjoying the playing and chatting so much that the 10pm curfew had been and gone - the band waved and left the stage. Despite repeated calls for an encore, the house lights went up and it was over. 
I know at least one Daintees non-fan who was there and really enjoyed the outing. Throughout, the music was top notch and Stephenson's songwriting is timeless.
There Comes A Time
Slaughter Man
The Wait
I Can See
The Old Church Is Still Standing
Wholly Humble Heart
Me & Matthew 
Goodbye John
I Pray
Get Get Gone
Even The Night
Running Water

Nice touch - you can download the new single from the California Star album here for free - in return for some free publicity i.e. Twitter, Facebook, canvassing of your local radio station, etc.

The support acts were:
Scott Macdonald
Scott was first up, and while the crowd milled about, buying beers, choosing the best vantage points, and browsing the merchandise stand, he performed some lovely songs. "This is my first time on such a big stage, and with such a small guitar" he joked between songs. His lyrics were particularly good and his acoustic 2/3 size guitar and harmonica soon drew the crowd closer, and appreciative applause. Definitely worth some more investigation, and a great opener for the night.  Lots more info here.

Helen McCookerybook
Helen was next on the stage, backed by Martin Stephenson and the Daintees! Helen was the bass guitar player and lead singer with Brighton-based punk rock band The Chefs during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Her most recent album is Take One, released on the Martin's Barbaraville label in October 2010. Gone are the punk influences these days. Now it's definitely more country and western. Her songs were pleasant, but it was a cover of a Daintees tune that stood out in her set. She finished up with "This is Anarchy Skiffle - 1,2,3 4". More info on Helen here.

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