For festivals & outdoor shows
It was approximately 20 years ago when I first saw Mark Morriss live when he was lead singer of The Bluetones at TJ's in Newport; who at the time were on a joint headline tour with Supergrass. Since then a lot has changed, The Bluetones were to attain commercial success, Britpop came and went, the way we consume music changed and The Bluetones in 2011 went their separate ways. Which brings us to tonight's intimate gig as Mark Morriss brings his solo unplugged show to Cardiff. It's been a couple of years since Mark last played Cardiff as a solo musician, and his first here in support of his second album 'A Flash Of Darkness'.
The venue is packed and as you would expect, largely made up of a slightly older (but non less passionate) crowd. Which is good news for Nick Ward who is opening tonight's proceedings with an acoustic performance. Immediately you can tell Nick is a songwriter in the tradition of Elvis Costello tinged with sixties soul and new wave. Songs from his latest album 'World In Reverse' sounding more personal in the confines of Four Bars. It's not often that a supporting act holds the attention of a packed room.
With things (literally) hotting up in this sticky room, I again squeeze myself into a small space as Mark takes to the floor. With self-deprecating humour and unfailing charm, Mark sets about performing some of his new material. It's pretty difficult to distinguish between old Bluetones songs, and the new. Only the association with the familiar that sets the old songs apart. The set is chock-full of shimmering pop melodies and catchy riffs, and that's just how the audience like it.
A personal highpoint of the night for me was 'Bluetonic' which took me straight back to the first time I heard Mark perform in live in TJ's. Mark also has a few curveballs up his sleeve tonight as he covers 'Hello' by Lionel Richie asking us at the end if there was anyone here from John Lewis Marketing (a wry observation of their fetish for twee stripped down cover songs for their Christmas campaigns). Mark also jokingly adds that he's available for cruises.
It's this humour tonight that makes him "one of us" and connects us to him. Unlike some other artists of the 90s, this material hasnt aged whilst the new songs have that timeless quality about them. For the throng tonight in Four Bars, this was no 'Slight Return'.