Matt Berry Live In London

The Toast Of London comes to Camden!

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There are musicians who dabble in acting, there are actors who dabble in music, and then there’s Matt Berry. The 1,500-plus townies, hipsters, ‘normals’ and celebs filling up The Forum know him best for his turns in top-end British comedies like The IT Crowd and his darkly surreal thesp-fest Toast Of London, but that’s not the guy who strides onstage tonight with his band, The Maypoles.

All in black right up to that luxuriant barnet of his, Berry – five albums in and counting – is in full muso mode as he throws on a red Telecaster and gives us a dose of Medicine. The set is studded with catchy fare, mainly from Kill The Wolf and Witchhazel. Among them, the bittersweet Toast theme tune Take My Hand and nursery rhyme-simple A Song For Rosie. He’s got a real talent for taking sylvan, 70s moments and refracting them through a 90s, Britpoppy lens. Ultimately though, he’s a prog boy, and his musical tastes are broad and good. Todd Rundgren’s I Saw The Light fits the set well; you wonder if everyone here knows it’s a cover.

Inter-song banter is sadly sporadic, with Berry’s voice lost in the overpowering reverb. He thanks us for coming out on this “fucking freezing” night, makes an in reference to Clem Fandango, and dedicates the show to the twins being carried by The Maypoles’ pregnant backing vocalist/clarinetist Cecilia Fage.

As a frontman, Berry is perhaps a bit nervous, laconic but focused, and unstarrily generous. Friend and former Bluetones singer Mark Morriss adds harmonies, and gets a moment in the spotlight with Pink Bullets. The funky Theme From Snuff Box is solo time, and what a crack team The Maypoles prove to be. Drummer James Sedge keeps his solo jazz-splashy, and Phil Scragg pulls off a fun bass solo. Groovy and wreathed in cosmic FX, it cracks Berry up. He himself takes to his Moog to trade licks with keyboardist/trombonist Graham Mann, referencing Jean-Michel Jarre, Gary Numan, Abba and Moog-must Popcorn along the way. It’s funny, and, noodling like this, his roots really start to show. Solstice is the set centrepiece, with Andy Vickery’s hipster trilby belying his tasteful yet technical guitar chops. Here and on epic first encore The Pheasant, he’s a monster.

007 composer David Arnold is ushered on for a knockabout encore of Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme - enjoyable, but not quite fitting - and just like that Berry waves goodbye, the houselights go up, and the queue for the signing desk begins. A good night’s music, and a reassuring reminder that people are multi-faceted beasts. We must prize our polymaths.

Grant Moon

A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Prog, Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.