Live Review: Beans On Toast + Kitty Liv, Face Bar, Reading – 14th December 2021

Photo by Aaron Parsons Photography

Kitty Liv, of Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, strolls on to the small stage at the Face Bar armed only with an electric guitar. Having performed gigs in pubs and clubs since the age of nine, she’s quick to engage with the crowd whom she successfully beckons to fill the void in front of the stage. She plays a short set, mainly focused on her newly released EP, ‘The River That Flows’, which finishes with a primarily a cappella song, interspersed with some great harmonica breaks.

It’s not long before the 41-year-old Beans On Toast, (aka Jay McAllister), appears accompanied by Jack Flanagan of the Mystery Jets on guitar and Kitty on bass. With his tongue firmly in his cheek, we’re told that he’s brought the 20 something’s, Jack and Kitty, along on tour to help him feel younger and to counteract his “soppy folk shit.” He’s released an album every year on 1st December, (his birthday), since 2009. Tonight we’re treated to a number of tunes from his latest release ‘Survival Of The Friendliest’, vinyl copies of which are no longer available at the merch stand.

Almost all of Beans On Toast’s songs cover at least one or more of the following three subjects: politics, drugs and love. They’re all delivered with large dollops of good humour, passion and optimism, even the ones that predict the end of the world. His endearing ‘The Album Of The Day’ documents his attempts to influence his young daughter’s musical taste by playing her classic albums including: ‘Exodus’, ‘London Calling’, ‘Odelay’, ‘9 to 5’, ‘Closing Time’ and ‘Blonde on Blonde’, avoiding greatest hits “because the real world comes with album tracks.” He’s proud to tell us that although his daughter now sometimes listens to the ‘Frozen’ soundtrack, when quizzed as to who her favourite band is, she always answers “The Pogues.”

Inspired by Nick Hayes’s ‘The Book of Trespass’, which investigates how large swathes of England came to be inaccessible to the general public, he launches into ‘The Commons’; “By fencing off the commons they’re fencing off our minds, And we’re only given access to a smidgen of our rivers, And we’re going stir crazy in the town and the cities, Knowing nature can fill that whole, We just need a right to roam”. It’s an apt song given the need of many people to find some solace in the countryside during the pandemic. Beans On Toast and Nick Hayes are planning a trespassing tour next year to which we’re all invited.

Following a rather ropey cover of The Doors’ ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’, a barefoot Mr Toast leaves the stage to sing amongst an appreciative audience. The evening is brought to a close with ‘This Christmas’ which has the crowd doing a sterling job of replicating the melodeon part. It’s followed by ‘The Chicken Song’. Detailing the horrors of poultry farming, “24 chicken wings for 6.99 that’s 85p for each chicken that died,” it must have put most people off grabbing a quick KFC on the way home. Before he departs, we’re left with a sing-along to ‘On & On’, a song of hope despite detailing the mess we appear to be in. If we could all bottle only a small fraction of Beans On Toast’s enthusiasm and optimism, and take a small sip of it every day, the world would be a much better place.

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Nice review Darren – nearly as lively as Mr Toast himself