Having got into Mark’s work with fictional TV band Polaris through the Nickelodeon series The Adventures of Pete and Pete, then later Miracle Legion and also missing their last set of live gigs, this UK tour of Mark’s solo work is a dream come true. The Legion are one of my favourite bands for the songs ‘Country Boy’ and ‘Out To Play’ and so many musicians cite them as huge influences from J Mascis to Thom York to The National. For Mark to come to Leeds is a huge deal for me personally. Having visited neighbouring Sheffield the night before the gig is more of an intimate show. The Sad Song Co is Nigel Powell, a Midlands man who has played with Mark every time he has come to Leeds (make that three times). This guy absolutely feels the music; a born performer who doesn’t have a huge crowd to start the show but plays his all anyway. Such beautiful songs delivered with such emotion, both on keys, guitar and 12-string guitar. Besides a cover of Ben Folds Five ‘Boxing’, the rest are songs of love, dancing and breakups. ‘Clarity’ and ‘Lifestyles’ are gorgeous songs, and Nigel is modest in his delivery but shouldn’t be.
He’s back on stage to play keys and guitar for Mark, who is also joined by Eat Fire Springs Jake Wardwell and Marc Seedorf on drums and bass and backing vocals. Nigel plays J Mascis’ guitar parts from new album The Gus extremely well. Tonight we hear 4 tracks from the new album, which is inspired by the short works of writer George Saunders. ‘People: Beware’ and Daisy Marie showcase how Mark is continuing his huge skill for mixing clever lyrics with catchy pop tunes. ‘Happy Boat’ is my favourite new track, where Marks voice goes just that bit lower than usual, and he steps away from the guitar for this one.
‘Taking Baby Steps’ is also a future hit if not one already with its swaying melodic pace. ‘Fathering is a lovely tune, I am a little sad that I don’t get to hear the amazing ‘Hey Self-Defeater’ live but there are many golden tracks here instead. Mark is always being polite to sound man Trev and his requests for ‘it’s time’ to switch on the Brude’s resident disco ball raise a giggle.
Mark asks if there are any Bobs in the Audience. There are actually including a staff member so the song about receiving a telegram that his partner is leaving with a Bob goes down well here. ‘What If I Go Off With Bob?’ Plenty of Bobs to choose from here. There’s also the question of where to get a decent fry up… the answer of Weatherspoons is not one I would go for, cheap or not! For last track Ciao My Shining Star, the same title as the surprise covers album featuring Frank Black, Dinosaur Jr, Buffalo Tom and Julian Hatfield amongst others, Mark’s voice goes falsetto, proving he still has the range to match his broad musical talent.
‘All For The Best’ is an audience request and the only Miracle Legion song tonight, but even though I am still learning these new songs the delivery from this legend is apparent and I can finally say I have witnessed this live. I hear Mark say to his band mates mid set that this venue is a great place. He even takes the time out to meet people afterwards and is such a down to earth chap. I do really hope he is back soon.
Where’s The Indifference Now?
I Have Patience
Taking Baby Steps
I Taketh Away
The Way She Is
I Woke Up In The Mayflower
She Makes The World Turn Backwards
Hurry, Please Hurry
What If I Go Off With Bob?
All For The Best
Ciao My Shining Star
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