Matt Berry & The Maypoles
It might come as a surprise to some that Matt Berry, comedic actor, star of The IT Crowd, and owner of Britain’s best voice, also tours as the lead singer of a band. But Berry is an accomplished musician, and has been putting out music for around 20 years now, still frequently touring with his band, The Maypoles.
Watching the band play is an activity reminiscent of stumbling across some Old Grey Whistle Test footage as they guide us through a jazzy fusion of psychedelic funk. There’s a real joy in watching the band play, since you never know what genre the next song will imbue unto itself. Berry takes us from folk-pop ballads through electronica, deep into the depths of prog and back out again, often within the same song.
At many times it feels as though we’ve been invited to watch The Maypoles during an extended jam session. Each band member is incredibly gifted at performing, and at many points they are given free reign to improvise. This is showcased in an extended version of ‘The Snuff Box Theme’: A real treat for diehard Berry fans that includes an extended instrumental section where each band member gets their own moment to shine.
This occasionally borders on the self indulgent, but the band just about know where to draw the line before it descends into pompous pretension. It does, however, mean that we are given an incredibly funky five-minute slap bass solo from bassist, Phil Scragg, which completely brought the venue into stunned silence. The Maypoles are also gifted with a very special guitarist in the form of The Bluetones’ singer and friend of Berry, Mark Morriss.
Berry is on superb form an as artist as well as a deadpan host; a real gifted performer, he provides as much entertainment between songs, chatting to the audience, as he does whilst playing. Riffs on ‘Wetherspoons’, ‘Northern accents’ and ‘Magic Mike’ make for hilarious mid-song interludes as well as giving shout-outs to 6Music DJ, Stuart Maconie, who happened to be in the audience.
Being Wednesday night, the show clashed with the showing of the third episode in the latest series of his brilliant sitcom, Toast of London, an episode that featured Mad Men Star Jon Hamm. This is something Berry acknowledged, dedicating the show’s theme tune ‘Take My Hand’ to Clem Fandango, which received rapturous applause.
Hits like ‘Medicine’ and ‘Devil Inside Me’ from 2013’s Kill The Wolf were also met with a great reaction from the crowd, with Berry taking to both the synths and guitar as well as lead vocals.
Berry’s encores for his live shows have become known for being very special, and this night was no exception. Morriss takes lead vocals for a rousing, surreal rendition of Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, which really elevates the crowd and gets everybody dancing.