Martin Stephenson & The Daintees prove to be an ideal act to see in the run up to Christmas – they exude so much warmth and charm that you walk away wishing good to all mankind and wanting to hug everyone you encounter. Not a particularly common feeling in central London, even in late December.
The band’s headline set at London’s west end venue The Borderline is filled with banter with the audience, hearty stomp-a-long anthems and tender, soulful ballads.
Opening with Little Red Bottle from the 1986 debut album Boat To Bolivia, Martin and company steam through a set that includes Rain, Coleen and a faster, funkier version of the mammoth Wholly Humble Heart. New material includes Long Way To Go from last year’s California Star album.
Martin demonstrates that he was a precocious talent with the track Neon Skies, which he tells us he wrote at the age of 14. The night swings from the personal to the political with him citing Margaret Thatcher as the impetus for writing the sharp tale of poverty and betrayal that is Left Us To Burn.
Lightening the mood again, Martin entertains the audience with myriad tales, including an insight into the 80s Liverpool music scene, painting a picture of very unlikely characters getting together on Sunday mornings to play football.
Aside from the Daintees foundation of bass, guitar, drums and occasional violin there’s also some vocal support from Alex Smith and Helen McCookerybook.
Running Water gets everyone dancing towards the end of the show. Quite how such a joyous sounding track can have lyrics including “I’m glad that it’s manslaughter not murder why they put you away” is a good example of Martin’s unique take on song-writing.
The band’s friendly exuberance is returned by the crowd and both audience and band are disappointed at not being able to fit in “half a song” more, when the sound technician calls time at 11pm. Luckily, Martin Stephenson has a 2014 tour already lined up, so they’ll be opportunities for more feel good fun.
On second thoughts, this an ideal band to see at any time of year: Martin Stephenson & The Daintees – not just for Christmas.
Review by Imelda Michalczyk on 17 December 2013, London.
Martin Stephenson & The Daintees
at The Borderline on 17 December 2013.
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