Matthew North Music - Review of 2017

2017 – Another year yes? Well yes but a Jam Packed one

As a musician you always strive to get on a bit more in your chosen field(s) than you did before. Some could say that I was at my most productive in the 90s when All Living Fear was touring all over the OK playing occasionally legendary venues with Legendary bands? OK yes, but those days are well over its all about the now and the future and not the past. This is someone I have learned from Mike Westbrook he gets asked all the time about archive releases and re producing old works and while a bit of nostalgia is always fun he wants to concentrate on the next project. I guess this is how he as produced 4 albums in the last 2 years (2 released and 2 to be released) where as I have err well lets start shall we.

As a solo musician I do feel things have stepped up a little more. For the first time I played a proper festival under my own name. Its been a few years since Secrets For September were a proper gigging band, we did quite a few small and not so small festivals. So It was great that I got a slot at the lovely Chagstock festival. Added to this I also appeared very briefly on Local BBC TV, this being 10 years after All Living Fear appeared on BBC Look North while we were playing at Whitby Goth Weekend. 

2017 was also the year I released my debut solo album. It does look suspiciously close to a Demo CD that I released 3 years ago. Even has the same front cover but most of the songs were re recorded, and worked on properly. And more crucially the album was properly mastered by the great Lee Fletcher and was a properly factory pressed release. Sadly its didn’t yield any reviews though some major folk publications and other magazines found it fit to sell the promo cds on ebay ahead of release. Not really cricket. Still the CD has gone down well with those that have heard it.

I had many other solo shows of note this year , a new event in Exeter called ‘The Lost Weekend’ saw me performing at the Royal Albert memorial Museum in Exeter. It was a wonderful performance space and the room was pretty full for the whole show. It feels really good to do gigs like this. I also had some gest major supports firstly I opened for the legend Michael Chapman again, I was very in awe of him the first time, but this time round it was like gigging with an old friend. It was also the first time in 25 years that my Mother turned up to a show, A special evening all round.  A few months on I also got to play the Tavistock Wharf as support to the band Stray. Again I played to another full room to great response both from the audience and the band themselves.  I also revisited Sidmouth folk festival and played 4 short sets around the town and I even played at the Exeter Street Arts festival doing my first ever Busking. So all in all a great  year.  Hopefully more in 2018 so far I have 2 great shows booked in around Easter.

One thing that possibly may trump all of the above in many ways was the reunion of my old band All Living Fear. We are a band that have split and reformed a few times though without as longer break as this time. It was the bands 25th anniversary so it was a now or never situation. Unlike previous reunions the only intention was to play live, But we wanted to do it right. Myself and Andy rehearsed every other weekend for about 5 months before our first show. More rehearsal than we ever did back in the day. What this did mean is that we had an added layer of confidence when we did that first show in Totness. At this point I must thank Matthew and Council of Giants for putting the show on, without them we would have never had that starting point to work from.  

All Living Fear at London Fiddlers Elbow By Graham Racher
The Show was a great success and we carried on the following week playing in Leeds. This is the furthest I had traveled to do a gig for nearly 10 years and it did feel like I was well and truly back in the gigging saddle. Leeds was also a great night, playing to old fans and picking up some new ones as well.
We then played on home turf with shows in Plymouth and Exeter, The cavern was always our home venue and it did feel like being back up when we played there. Then a couple days later we got to open for the gothic rock legends Clan of Xymox at the Fleece in Bristol. This was a superb show another full room of appreciative music fans. Thanks to Anthony and Frank for this. We have played many gigs for Flag promotions over the years but this was head and shoulders the best.

the last show of the tour was the most enjoyable of the lot. The reason we got everyone together. Paul Roe was unable to do most of the shows as he is in several gigging bands and he has played well over 100 shows this year, but for the London gig he returned on the Bass. Not only was this a big lift to the bands sound but it was great to have the comradery back.  The final piece of the All Living Fear Jigsaw was having Michael Webb on guitar too. Me and Michael discussed doing  something All Living Fear related a while before me and Andy worked things out so it all fitted together quite brilliantly. Nick from The Faces Of Sarah put a great show together and the venue was most helpful as we wanted to film and record the gig. Its now all been edited and looks and sounds great, We will be doing something with it next year.

We are all in agreement that we would like to do some more All Living Fear shows in 2018 ideally all 4 of us so we will wait and see what occurs. I would like to thank everyone involved in the Project as its been a labour of love for 25 years and that time on never felt better.

This follows on to my other main project playing in Mike Westbrooks Uncommon Orchestra. Its been a long while since we played and 2 shows arrived on the radar one in London and the Other In Bury St Edmunds. Both cool places. I had been to see Mike do the Westbrook Blake a couple times in both locations so I knew there was a keen audience there. We had 3 or so rehearsals , they were all wonderful. One was in a pub where we got banned for offending people having a carvery! So we moved to the Big red Studios in Newton Abbott and the band never sounded better. I filmed all 3 shows and this time got some great camera angles, this with the band playing better than ever resulted in some great footage with will go into my film about the band that I can now start making.

so 2017 very productive, I am now working on my next album with the provisional title of ‘catching up on lost time’ and I hope to have it out in the Summer or by my Birthday.

2017 has been a Mixed bag for new releases for me. I was rather disappointed with the David Gilmour Live at Pompeii Blu Ray and Album, I don’t think it was the best show of the tour, the gig in Poland that was filmed for TV I felt was a much better show. I saw the film in the Cinema and felt there was too much overdubbed audience sound. But hey its David Gilmour I still bought it!! While we are on the Floyd path Roger waters new album ‘Is this the life we really want?’ some great songs but something missing, mostly lead guitars! Recorded without any of his regular touring musicians. Had the album featured Graham Broad, Jon Carin and DK it would have been a different beast. Live the songs shine brighter than on the LP. Looking forward to taking in 2 shows next year in the summer.

My album of the year is
Blancmange – Unfurnished Rooms – Only just got this on the strength of seeing them live recently the songs are based on grooves and riffs with Neil’s sometimes deadpan lyrics. It grows with more listens.

Bronski Beat return with a remake of the debut called ‘the Age of reason’ the songs sequence better than the original with hard Rain being part of the album.   Steve along with Ian Donaldson (who’s been in the band for over 20 years) and new vocalist Stephen Granville have done a cracking job on this album.

Howard Jones at Electric Dreams
Nelson Can EP – This trio from Denmark were recommended to me by a friend and Im so glad he did because they were excellent live and the CD has no less the power of the liver performance. A trip of vocals bass and Drums with heaps of dynamics they do the minimal band line up thing far better than bigger names like Royal Blood in my humble opinion.

Locally there have been some great Releases Oxe Eye Daisies album Memorabilia is superb esp if you like Lan Del Rey esque downtempo songs.
Two Exeter bands both have released LPs this year Sound of the Sirens and Wildwood kin and the both tickled the Album charts too. No mean feat. If you like Acoustic Singer Songwriter songs then both will be for you.
Finally Fairport Convention return with 50/50@50 half new have old songs re versioned. A fun album ever a cameo from Robert Plant there too.

As for life gigs I have been to a photographed many. Some f you will have followed my Facebook page where I have put up many photos. I got to see a lot of bands that I had never seen before some were good some not so.
Thomas Dolby at Electric Dreams
Paul Rodgers in Plymouth
Most disappointing was Kraftwerk, I’m not a fan of 3d Films and I found the visuals after a while to be a bit dull. Being sat in the balcony I could see what the band were doing or not doing. Some bits were appearing to be life, but not a lot. Much rather have seen Kraftwerk in the days of playing real or home made instruments rather than tapping on Ipads.

The Who performing Tommy in Full at the Royal Albert hall was glorious, the band were on full form and the show was outstanding one of the very best. As was U2 at Twickenham Stadium outstanding performance.

Yes under the guise of ARW and now called Yes Featuring ARW was also a momentous occasion.  The band on outstanding from playing all the songs you want to hear. I also got to see Paul Rodgers play a full set of Free songs right on my doorstep and too a trip to Bristol to see Stanley Clarke another musical hero I never though I’d see.
U2 at Twickenham
Cropredy Festival was special but It was always going to be. To see so many key member of Fairport Convention on one stage was amazing the like we will probably never see again.
At the end of the year I went to Butlins Electric Dreams Weekend. some first class sets from Blancmange, Howard Jones and musical masterclass from Thomas Dolby.  All in all a great year for seeing live music.

so what does 2018 Have in store? Looking forward to just getting out there guitar in hand. 


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