REVIEW: Shed Seven, Mark Morriss and Chris Helme at Roadmender in Northampton, Monday December 16.
As the rumour mill gathers pace about various Britpop reunions for the forthcoming year, a brief revival took place right here in Northampton on Monday night as the Roadmender welcomed back 90s indie stalwarts, Shed Seven.
They were backed up by the mighty Mark Morriss (Bluetones) and it was an unexpected treat to have the wonderfully talented and very much underrated Chris Helme (The Seahorses) added to the bill also.
Watching Chris before the gig, I didn’t recognise him to look at, and his voice was unfamiliar from the one I knew. This lone man perched on a stool may be a million miles away from the heady days performing on stage alongside John Squire, but my god, what a voice. An absolutely flawless power house of a vocalist who rattled off The Seahorses’ hits Talk To Me, Hello and Blinded by the Sun back to back with new material.
It’s questionable why a voice and songwriting talent like this isn’t a household name.
Time has obviously leant itself well to Chris who was an absolute pleasure listen to.
Following that was Mark, indie music’s veritable comedian who never fails to make me laugh as much as he does sing and dance. As enigmatic off stage as on it, he took time out from re-stocking his fridge with an over-abundance of cheese and chutneys to reflect on time on the road with the Sheds. “Oh it’s awful. The egos, man, the ego’s. And the drugs!? My god they are hard work. Awful people,” he said.
Jokes aside, gigs like this seem to be part of Mark’s make-up and something he takes in his stride.
He added: “I’ve been performing for so long, even when I was with the Bluetones I’d still do solo stuff, I’ve been performing on my own for ten years so it’s nothing unusual for me. But yeah it’s been good, Shed Seven are great guys and it’s nice to have Chris here for a few dates too, his last release was amazing”.
Mark treated the crowd to a neatly dovetailed set of new and old, interspersed with humour for good measure. Slight Return sounding as blissful acoustic as it does with a full band and Mark’s latest release This is the Lie (And That’s the Truth) is an absolute breath of fresh air.
It’s always been a date provisionally pencilled in to every Shed fan’s diary, an assumption that is honoured by the band every couple of years as they will hit the road to tour their greatest hits. This year was no exception. With tickets being snapped up from the first day of release back in May it was clear from the off that love for the band is as resolute as ever.
The band kicked off the set with Getting Better before storming their way through hit after hit including Speakeasy, The Heroes, Mark, Bully Boy and crowd-pleasers Chasing Rainbows and Going for Gold.
Frontman Rick Witter is still as much the hips-man as he ever was, possessing all the energy of a hyperactive child throwing himself about the place and yet still managing to sing as though this was his everyday, he owns the stage.
The back catalogue of hits they have under their belt is impressive. But for me, nothing quite makes the hairs on my neck stand on end like Ocean Pie/On An Island With You.
As a teenager these were the songs that were looped in my bedroom for hours, days. This was their Champagne Supernova. And live, it never fails to disappoint. Beautifully, utterly wonderful.
Over the years I have seen bands come and go. Having peaks and troughs battling with chart success, seeing audience numbers dwindle and fade and fighting to fill small venues.
It’s kind of inevitable for bands that were part of such a niche era, and for bands in general maybe, but Shed Seven are one of a few bands of the time that have remained constant.
They have an army of devoted fans whose hearts are steadfastly rooted in Britpop and whose appreciation of the band is resolute - no mean feat for a group that haven’t released any new material for several years and something Rick mused over.
“It’s almost like a cult of fans. We release these tickets months before the gigs and people are buying them. People are looking ahead and thinking ‘yes, I wanna see those guys in seven months time’. It means a lot to us. It’s something we like to do every couple of years, tour the hits because that’s what fans want to hear,” Rick told me.
Now aged in their 40s, it’s understandable that touring doesn’t have quite the same merciless routine that it did 20 years ago, with Rick suffering vocally mid-way through the band’s 13 dates, he explains the toll touring now takes on him,
He said: “We don’t do this all the time y’know, it’s not like we’re on the road all the time or I’m singing regularly, it’s like not going to the gym for a year and then doing a ridiculous workout every day.
“I’m very energetic on stage and I did start to feel it at Wolverhampton. But I’ve seen a doctor, I’m dosed up and I’m fine now”.
Leading from this, I ask Rick if they have any plans to tour the band’s debut release Change Giver in 2014 to coincide with the album’s 20-year anniversary.
“I don’t think so. I don’t want to do it just because it’s the 20-year thing. I honestly don’t think people would come. People want to hear Disco Down, Going For Gold and Getting Better, stuff they know and can have a dance to”.
With a plethora of hits under their belt, it’s always on fans’ minds as to whether this will be all we will hear of the Sheds, and whether we will ever be treated to any new material
“I don’t know, I don’t want to release new stuff just because I am in Shed Seven and because I can. Don’t get me wrong I’d love to write an amazing track but I would never tarnish what we have just for the sake of writing another record.
“We have some great songs and I want us to be remembered for those songs, not for being the band that had some great songs and then wrote an absolute clanger.
“We have no deep-seated desire to rekindle what we were as such. We all have other stuff, families, I have my DJ slot every Sunday on Minster FM which is something I kind of stumbled into doing but something I really enjoy and hope to keep doing.
“We are proud of what we have achieved and are happy to keep It that way.”
Disappointing for fans maybe, but a commendable and down-to-earth grasp on what has become an incredible 20-year legacy.
It may be this acceptance of what they are and what they represented that has kept them at the forefront of Britpop music.
No frills. No inclination to adapt and change. Just a wonderful slice of Britpop history and one we hope we will continue to hear live for years to come.
Review by Annie Lees, of Fleckney. Annie is the Mail’s online music reporter.
Follow Annie on Twitter, @aAnie_beth.