Matthews Southern Comfort

Live Review | Tap and Barrel, Pontefract | Review by Allan Wilkinson

The Tap and Barrel is just a short walk from the old market place in Pontefract and prides itself on being ‘a place for people; serving up an atmosphere of niceness, with good stuff happening every day’. The pub also boldly quotes Dylan on its website “Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm. Come in she said, I’ll give ya shelter from the storm”. Nicely put Bobby. There were no storms to speak of tonight, in fact it was un-seasonally mild after a period of icy cold and the Tap and Barrel offered comfort of a different variety, comfort of the southern sort. Local writer, broadcaster and general good lad Ian Clayton was on hand to introduce the band tonight in this most intimate of settings. The action took place in the bar, with a curtain separating the ticket holders from other visitors to the pub, which made things all nice and cosy for an evening of fine music. At the far end of the room, which in all fairness was but a few short steps from one end to the other, a stage area was suitably prepared, which consisted of a large patterned carpet of the Greg Lake variety, almost totally obscured by wires and guitar gadgetry. Surrounding the amps, microphone stands, guitars, mandolin and keyboards was everything you might find in a backstreet collectables shop; a large standard lamp, a candelabra complete with glowing lit candles, a teddy bear wearing headphones stuffed into a large upturned lampshade, a Pre-Raphaelite beauty from the brush of Rossetti, namely Proserine, chomping on her last pomegranate seeds before shuffling off, hung directly above the keyboards and Lisa del Giocondo herself leaning up against a speaker on the floor, her enigmatic smile suitably present for all to see. Iain Matthews and his band were not scheduled to play this particular gig tonight, which was hastily organised after another venue pulled out of the band’s current tour. The sold-out show just goes to show that anything can happen if you put your mind to it and tonight’s event gave a bunch of lucky people the chance to see the former Fairport Convention singer up close and personal. Joined by the current incarnation of Matthews Southern Comfort, Dutch musicians all, Bart Jan Baartmans, Bart de Win and Eric De Vries, Matthews selected songs both new and old from his prolific back catalogue, mainly sticking to the Southern Comfort repertoire, but treating each arrangement to a new twist. Remarkably, the new songs such as “Like a Radio”, “The Thought Police”, “Crystals on the Glass” and “The Age of Isolation”, fit seamlessly alongside the older, more established songs such as “Mare”, “Take Me Home”, “D’arcy Farrow” and their take on Carole King’s infectious “To Love”. Given this sort of treatment, both vocally and instrumentally, the whole was something to behold. Despite the ‘woman back at the hotel’ having little clue as to who Matthews Southern Comfort actually are or indeed how their major hit of the early Seventies actually goes, everyone in the room tonight were very much aware and thoroughly expected “Woodstock” at some point. The band closed with a further airing of the Joni Mitchell classic, which was given a deeply soulful groove, a more sultry bluesy take on the flower generation’s iconic anthem than was expected. After the final encore, Iain Matthews was only too pleased to declare that it was “time for drinks”.