Chris Helme, Mark Morriss and Nigel Clark 23.10.2021 The Engine Rooms, Southampton
This was intriguing. Three lead singers from different bands play solo acoustic sets and join up for a final set: Nigel Clark of Dodgy, Mark Morriss of The Bluetones and Chris Helme of The Seahorses.
It was only a matter of weeks since my last Bluetones gig in Bournemouth and a few months since seeing Dodgy at a festival in Poole. (Background on those bands in the links.)
The Seahorses though were I band that I’d missed. Formed in 1996 by John Squire after The Stone Roses split up, with Chris Helme as lead vocalist. They made just one album, Do it Yourself, which got to number 2 in the UK charts and I’d probably say was my album find of the year so far.
The Engine Rooms has become a more familiar destination in recent years and rather than repeat venue notes I’m starting to create updated blogs for my more regularly visited venues: Venues – The Engine Rooms.
First on this evening was Nigel Clark of Dodgy. A 35 minute set of 10 songs – five Dodgy, one cover and four from his solo material.
As with all three of these guys, it’s one man and his guitar. Talented, experienced and self-effacing, delivering their songs with some context and humour.
Of course he plays Good Enough and Staying out for the Summer. It would be too much to resist, and If You’re Thinking of Me was another notable Dodgy number. But these solo performances are a careful balance between showcasing some lesser known solo stuff and not losing the crowd by throwing them some hits.
From his solo album, for sale on the merch stand, Make Believe Love, the stand out pick was You Can Hold My Hand.
The level of hum drum chat from the audience, increased nearer the bar, was pretty loud but the PA sound was beefy enough to mask it mostly. I wondered if with artists from three bands most people had one they’d come to see and listen to and thought they’d chunter away irritatingly in the other two….a move nearer the front helped.
Next was Mark Morriss of The Bluetones, someone I’ve seen many times with the band but never managed to catch solo but wanted to. He started by spilling water everywhere from ‘the haunted’ stage bar table and it was upwards from there.
I was more interested to hear the solo stuff but it was a welcome treat to hear the solo versions of Bluetones classics like Marblehead Johnson and that wonderful pop hit Bluetonic.
Morriss openly explained how he had opted for the one Bluetones then one solo track option to avoid people getting bored.. ‘you bastards’ he laughed. Consuela was good enough to prompt me to go looking for it later on a 2013 album and Rimini also very much earned its place in this eight song set.
….and his ‘parting shot’ was Bluetones number Parting Gesture.
The final solo slot – the notional headline role – circulated between these three Britpoppers on this tour. Tonight it was Chris Helme’s turn… perched on a stool, with his guitar.
Helme didn’t disappoint by including the two songs that I most wanted to hear most: the excellent Blinded by the Sun and Love is the Law. The latter he credited as a John Squire Seahorses’ creation before suggesting that it was actually plundered from an old George Formby album, with a quick scratchy guitar strum and a line from the ‘when I’m cleanin’ windows’ song…”turned out nice again”.
You Can Talk to Me and Moving On are other Seahorses tracks I noted. Faces track Ooh La La was introduced with a story of when Helme’s son was working in a bar and Rod Stewart walked in – “are you Rod Stewart?” “All day” Rod replied. Helme’s son said his dad was in a band and liked his songs.. The Seahorses.. doing well at the time. “Never heard of ’em” said Rod. So Ooh La La was dedicated to ‘Rod the nob’.
The final slot was the special bit in this unusual tour… all three of tonight’s Britpoppers: Chris, Mark and Nigel. I don’t think they have a name as such but they announced that they would be supporting Shed Seven (or now Shed 5 as Mark put it – two recently left) together on tour and had been writing some material together as a trio. Interesting.
Four or five songs to round off this quite unique evening and Neil Young’s Old Man was a welcome inclusion to finish.
The near last song was introduced by Mark Morriss and I misheard but later listened and learned that it was a John Prine number. Something of a now dead, American folk legend who I knew nothing about but the song they played of his to finish has been my record of week (if I have one): The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness . I found a Lemonheads version I really like as well.
A novel evening seeing these three solo and moreso on stage together. I’ll be interested to hear their new collaborative work.