Patsy Matheson & Becky Mills

Live Review | The Regent, Doncaster | Review by Allan Wilkinson

It would probably be impolite to describe here just how scared Crosby Stills and Nash were when they took to the Woodstock stage way back in ‘69 for their supposed second gig ever but last night for their third gig ever, Becky Mills and Patsy Matheson seemed relatively relaxed when they appeared at the Monday Music Club at the Regent as a duo. This could possibly have something to do with the slight difference in numbers, granted, but in both cases, cutting your teeth in high profile bands appears to bring out an assured confidence in an artist or in this case, two artists. On this occasion, Becky and Patsy have temporarily strayed from fellow bandmates Rachel Goodwin and Jools Parker to bring to this small Doncaster audience the essence of Waking the Witch in a stripped down version. What Waking the Witch do share with the aformentioned Sixties ‘supergroup’ is a flare for vocal dexterity that is best captured live. Fortunately, very little is lost in the singing of Becky and Patsy, both of whom possess distinctly different voices that somehow work together incredibly well. From the outset, I wondered whether the ‘missing’ voices would be so noticable as to signify a gaping hole, but pleasantly surprised was I. Taking selections from each of the bands’ three albums, the duo managed to deliver each song without losing any of the power of the four piece on songs such as “Only Human” with some sweet slide guitar, the outstanding “Jenny Thornton & The Boys from the Abattoir” with it’s cute whistled coda filling in for the brass section used on the recorded version, “There for Me” the usual Waking The Witch opener and “Spring Song” with its creative use of a South American rainstick. And then, as if this wasn’t enough, along comes the touching “Man of Moon”, Becky Mills’ achingly personal song which invites us all to witness first hand emotional turmoil in song. The haunting coda of “rewind, pause, play” seems to stay with you. Once heard, never forgotten. The three cover versions of the night could not have been culled from more diverse sources; “Gold Watch Blues”, a Donovan cover written by Mick Softley with its interesting jews harp accompaniament, tells the all too familiar tale of signing away ones being to a life of work; the traditional power ballad that is and always will be “Matty Groves” with all the ‘umph’ of, let’s say your common or garden British folk rock outfit; and of all things, Gary Numan’s “Cars”. I guess you really had to be there to witness it, but if this isn’t too much of a stretch, imagine “Cars” as appearing on Joni Mitchell’s first album and fitting seamlessly between “Night in the City” and “Marcie” – I know, difficult to imagine but true. Musical trinkets such as the Bolivian rainstick, an assortment of shakers and rattlers, the odd jews harp, a couple of nice guitars and a mandolin are all delightfully utilised in this duos’ set, but when it comes down to it, it’s those voices that matter, that’s what it’s all about. Becky Mills and Patsy Matheson make it all seem as easy as breathing and I suspect to them, this is precisely what it is.