Mark Morriss

Mark Morriss: Islington Academy, London

The Bluetones front man returned to London’s Islington Academy this past week. He is arguably the hardest working live act in the UK. Forever touring and dazzling intimate crowds with wit and charm.

With a new album in the pipeline, the quest to blend the new with the classics was always going to be the biggest test. Whilst its great to hear the pop classics of ‘Cut Some Rug’ and ‘Bluetonic’, it’s the heartfelt ‘Rimini’ and ‘Rollaway’ that strike the biggest the chord. The roots of Crosby Stills & Nash shine through here and, with his unique pop vocal, converting fans of yesteryear to the present seems inevitable.

The prowess of ‘If’ and ‘Never Going Nowhere’ hit a sweet spot with the crowd but, flittering just behind was the mystery of mystery of ‘Duchess’ and the bewitching nature of ‘It’s Hard to Be Good All the Time’.

The balance between old and new was still skewed towards the old among Morriss’ faithful. There were however, moments when the crowd’s nostalgia dissipated and a new focus began to emerge. Let’s hope this was the first step to Morriss renaissance he clearly deserves.

Mark Morriss Live: Spotlite Club, Southend

A strange gig in many ways. What was due to be an intimate setting with an icon became even more so with a poor turnout. This was Southend’s newest small gig venue, not a great sign of things to come. Nevertheless, Morriss took the ego hit in his stride and regaled stories and jokes in-between worthy of Live at the Apollo.

In-between the anecdotes and Bluetones classics, Morriss displayed his criminally underrated solo material. From his 2014 album ‘Flash of Darkness’, was ‘It's Hard to Be Good All The Time’ which kept the spirit of Crosby Stills and Nash alive. The sullen acoustic guitars of ‘Carry On’ and the brooding nature of ‘Dark Star’ combined with Morriss’ unique pop vocals.

From his debut solo effort ‘Memory Muscle’ came the more Bluetones-esque ‘I’m Sick’. The spritely melodies which embody all that is great about his band. More interestingly, there is sense of longing for something unfound, a notion that, with all the glory of the 90s, you’d feel Morriss would not have anymore.

The standout offering was the CSN styled ‘This Is The Lie (and That’s The Truth). A brilliant story of self-reflection and what it is to be a solo artist. Morriss’ ability to intertwine feelings of isolation with pop music have never been better here.

This was not a gig BBC4 will be making a documentary about but, for the small crowd, its one they will cherish more than most. Humble and hilarious, Morriss reminded them of the glory days and, better still, demonstrated that he is a force to be reckoned with as a solo act.