By: Steve Fallows
The Star & Garter, Manchester | June 10, 2016
I first became aware of Chris T-T, when he supported Bellowhead in Manchester back in 2007, and despite not really knowing what to expect or having a really big appreciation of singer songwriters, his brand of angry, yet quiet and often sarcastic songs really struck a chord with me. After missing many chances to see him again, it was great to finally see him again and see him out in support of the long awaited follow up to that album he had been promoting first time round.
The downstairs bar area of The Star & Garter (a great venue, you must visit if you get the chance before it is closed) was a perfect setting for a gig like this. A small intimate setting with a low stage, allowing each of the four acts and the audience to be relaxed and this intimate atmosphere allowed each of the four performers to really shine tonight. First up was Matt McKee, who told a few tales of the tour so far, as his exquisite guitar accompaniment worked perfectly to his downbeat, but never depressing songs. There was a lighter moment, as he gave his sweary take on the Spice Girls ‘Say You’ll Be There’ lifting the mood towards the end of his melancholic set. A great start to the evening.
Neil Morris changed the mood with a set of largely self deprecating sings that mainly centred around him and his (in)ability to deal with a number of situations that life has thrown his way. From break ups, to getting drunk and lost after a show, to fails attempts at chatting people up. All done with tongue firmly in cheek and not an ounce of “woe is me”. His intros lead you up to the point in the story where the song started and with all of the featuring life’s mundane side, it really drew you in as everyone has been there for most of these events at some point or other.
Helen Chambers delved a little further into the past with some of her songs based around her family stories and events, a much more traditional folk style and more narrative then soul searching. Her voice compared to the previous acts was very quiet and almost vulnerable, but equally enthralling. Similarly to Matt McKee, a quiet unassuming character between songs, but once she started singing, had complete control of the room.
Chris T-T took to the stage and thanked the other for their fine performances before playing a variety of material from his back catalogue. His acknowledgement of being regarded as a political singer rankled with him as he told everyone he hates politics and didn’t really want to do angry songs, instead just being drawn to write about certain things at the time they were happening. This lead into a couple of tracks from his latest album ‘9 Green Songs’. He also played a couple of tracks from his album of A A Milne poems as well as reading a couple of his own poems. Just as he did nearly a decade ago, he showed how much can be achieved by one man and a guitar, and in two very different settings. Each of his songs differs in tone and subject from the next, a huge relief from the largely bland and safe act acts that continuously gets pushed by mainstream media. Shame it was such a quiet night, with a relatively low turnout, but those that were there were treated to some fine talents. Another one of those nights that convinces you that you should go out and support a show when possible.