Matty James & The Irregulars
It was a busy Saturday night in December when Matty James brought his band Matty James & The Irregulars to Tiger Lounge, Manchester for the final night of his first UK tour with a full band. What had been a very rainy day in Manchester had settled to the occasional light shower when I rolled up at the venue, which is in the basement of office buildings close to Manchester Town Hall and conveniently situated opposite a Wetherspoons pub. Singer songwriter Matty hails from Enniskillen and the sound is described as Rogue Folk, Rock ‘n’ Roll and Alternative Country. This was to be my first Matty James gig although I have seen the video for Up In Smoke so recognised him at a Michael Monroe gig recently, and he was perfectly courteous and polite when faced with my ‘Ere are you Matty James?’ Support came from fellow Irregular Philthy and The Medicine Bow.
First up tonight came from one of The Irregulars, Philthy, one guy and his guitar, who introduced himself with a ‘My name’s Philthy and I come from Northern Irealand’ before playing a fast accoustic, song with three chords in, aptly called A Song With 3 Chords In. We got a cover of Mischief Brew‘s Old Tyme Mem’ry a gentle folky type song, after which he said that as he had the capo he’d keep going in the same key and went on to say ‘I try to be topical but wrote this four years ago and never changed the lyrics’ before Smoke Has Cleared which reminded me of What’s Going On by 4 Non Blondes. Then he said he was going to do a Violent Femmes song next but he was going to disappoint people because it wasn’t the one in the B&Q advert but the other one before a cover of Held Her In My Arms. I was disappointed that it wasn’t Add It Up The one in the advert he was referring to being Blister In The Sun. Pawn Takes King a very fast song with a country vibe was about civil disobedience and chess. Indicating a scruffy piece of paper on the floor with doge ears and fold marks he said Matty had about fifty printed set lists but he only had the one, luckily his had lasted the tour! The last three songs were Irish ballad Star of County Down, For The Record about the record, although he said he didn’t have any as he wasn’t organised and last song Mercedes Benz.
A powerful sound with elements of folk, county and rock, a good opening act.
Philthy on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/philthyrock
Second up tonight came from local band The Medicine Bow with two of the band Stu Gibson and Tyler Hatwell doing an acoustic set. Stu on guitar and lead vocals and Tyler on a mouth organ. Stu in a black jacket and cap with sideburns to rival Noddy Holder looked dressed for the winter weather outside, whilst Tyler looked much more casual in jeans, shirt and sneakers. With Stu’s gravelly voice and the Irish folk vibe The Medicine Bow reminded me of the Pogues. A powerful sound from just two but I can’t comment on any specific songs as they seemed to go from one song to the next with no break and no introduction so I couldn’t name that song! We did get a bit of banter though as Stu said ‘Hello I’m Dave Kusworth and this is …..’ to which Tyler replied ‘At least I’m not slow’ I’m not slow either, although some may beg differ! At this stage I hadn’t looked up their names but I knew it wasn’t Dave Kusworth as I met him in the 12 Bar once. Obviously an in joke which went over my head! Some aggressive singing and foot stamping ensued with Tyler doing some backing vocals. There was a song about Tequila and Stu, at last, must have warmed up as he took his jacket off to reveal a fringed country and western style shirt before a shout of ‘Yee haw’ and some more foot stomping led to a song where I picked up the lyrics ‘Riding high, running low’ and when he wasn’t on the mouth organ Tyler was singing some backing vocals which sounded distorted, and I thought this one had a The Senton Bombs flavour. Stu said ‘We’re Medicine Bow’ and indicated Tyler ‘This is Mr Hatwell’ to which Tyler asked ‘Does that mean I have to do one?’ and the audience shouted ‘Yes’ and they had a quick look at what was on the set list and he did one, which included foot stamping, some bass drum sounding ‘Boom, boom, booms’ and the singing was interspersed with the mouth organ. At the end he got a hefty round of applause and Stu said ‘Mr Hatwell wins.’ Someone ran up to adjust the mic and we came to the last song which I think was called Scar on the Horizon Stu said ‘Thank you to everyone’ and they finished to a round of cheers and applause. Another powerful set to get the audience warmed up!
The Medicine Bow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Medicine-Bow-175430809146987/timeline
At this point I’d thought I’d have a good ten minutes before Matty James & The Irregulars came on so I nipped to Tesco, which is literally a two minute walk and no, I wasn’t doing a weekly shop, just grabbing a sandwich to eat when I got home, so I can’t have been gone much more than five minutes, but when I got back the band were already playing so I missed any introduction, but caught most of their first song The Road To No Town, the title track of the new album, which is due to be released early in 2016. I don’t think I did miss any introductions as after the first song Matty said ‘Good Evening Manchester, we’re Matty James & The Irregulars.’ Then introduced the next song A World Away a fast catchy one which had people dancing along. Before Better Days Matty said it was a pleasure to be here, and with it’s Oliver’s Army by Elvis Costello vibe it kept people up dancing. By this stage Matty had ditched his guitar and Philthy was encouraging people to clap. Matty then told us that this was their ‘Very first tour but this happens to be the last night. We’ve laughed. We’ve cried. Boy have we cried’ before saying that they would be playing some stuff off the new record, which they had only played a couple of times, so he asked us to be kind. Dissatisfied was a very fast one with a good rhythm and had Matty playing the mouth organ in places and reminded me of Tyla/The Dogs D’Amour. Matty said there was a new video out for the next song which had an easy chorus we could sing along to before Sticks & Stones, with some great riffs and Matty on the mouth organ again.
Johnny then asked if anybody had got a ligther, as he couldn’t find his to use as a slide. Matty joked that they had a guitar player who could only slide with a lighter, and it had to be black! Luckily someone did lend him one, although it was mint green rather than black! Matty advised that they were ‘Going to go back to the album I released last year Last One To Die. This is the title track.’ Philthy was playing an electic mandolin and Johnny used the lighter for the slide, even though it wasn’t black and I noticed that his paisley waistcoat matched his guitar and all the band were wearing black and white, all different styles of outfit but still colour co-ordinated and this one reminded me of Ghost Riders in the Sky by Johnny Cash and although no specific song, just overall, I also thought of The Shadows, and it looks like they were great advocates of the black and white theme too (see here). Matty then asked us to sing along if we knew the next one Leaving which had some of well known sea shanty Drunken Sailor worked in at the end. After Gunpowder Matty said it was a bit hot up there so they were going to play a slow song to cool things down a bit and he said ‘ Grab someone you love or don’t know! Win Or Lose’ a mellower one.
By The Cold Light of Night another mellow one, which had a bit of a reggae start and I thought of UB40, had a few people singing along loudly and lots of heads nodding and afterwards Matty said ‘Cheers! Thanks for singing along’ then ‘Here’s one to get your feet tapping’ and Oh My Darlin’ was a fast catchy one which, again, got people dancing. Matty then introduced us to the band before Philthy introduced Matty with a ‘Ladies and gentlemen he comes from a good home. Mr Matty James’ and Matty said he hoped we were all up for doing a bit of singing because he’d been doing it all and we guys had been relaxing! Same Old Me (Brand New You) and for some reason I was reminded of Blondie’s One Way Or Another, This was another song which got people dancing, singing and clapping along. It was then time for the last song of the set and he said he’d leave us with Up In Smoke and said ‘Take it away Johnny!’ and he did, this one was really popular with the audience and had most people dancing or tapping their feet. It wasn’t quite the end as we got an encore in the form of a cover of It’s All Over Now by The Rolling Stones!
And it really was all over for Matty James & The Irregulars first UK Tour. A bar and some real live music to get you dancing and singing made for a good Saturday night’s entertainment. Far better to get some real live music than to stay in watching TV! The music should appeal to fans of bands like The Rolling Stones, Tyla and The Dogs D’Amour and The Pogues. Look out for a gig at a venue near you this year!
The Road To No Town
A World Away
Sticks & Stones
Last One To Die
Leaving (Drunken Sailor)
Win or Lose
By The Cold Light of Night
Oh My Darlin’
Same Old Me (Brand New You)
Up In Smoke
It’s All Over Now
Matty James – Vocals/ Acoustic Guitar/ Harmonica/ Stomp Box
Philthy – Guitar/ Mandolin/ Backing Vocals
Johnny Danger – Guitar/ Backing Vocals
Francis McNally – Bass
Eden Ralph – Drums