Football has a lot to answer for. Not least a last-minute switch from the Chapel Arts Centre to a free, late gig at Matt Owens’ regular city centre haunt, The Grapes. AUK has been featuring “Small Venue Heroes” this year, and if you need reminding why the best music is played in pubs, then get along to a Matt Owen’s gig here.
By 9.30 the band were wedged in a corner by the door and playing some of the more electric songs from his brilliant ‘Beer For The Horses‘ album. The title song, ‘300 Shows’ and ‘Strip It Back’ from his previous ‘Scorched Earth’ set were the highlights. Owens had clearly decided this was a night for fun and the best was saved for the cover versions. The first set featured a stomping ‘Take Me To The River’, which fed into a whole set of covers after the break.
As you might expect from a pub gig the choice songs veered towards the popular, but the Americana content was kept up with great takes on ‘Learning To Fly’, ‘The Weight’ and ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’. The Rolling Stones are always good for a gig like this and the best of a trio of their songs was ‘Jumping Jack Flash’, which included a Jerry Garcia style solo from Owens, which may well have given a clue as to what we will hear at his Dead themed 7 Hills Spring Festival next March.
The usual chaos of the best pub gigs had Owens being bumped by everyone opening the door (including me, sorry Matt), and included an over refreshed young lady being escorted to that door before she fell into banjo player Sam Taylor’s lap. The Friday night crowd, who were mostly there for the beer, had been won over and, dancing by the end of the second set, demanded and got a two song encore. Good music played by a great band works for everyone and what could have been a second-best event turned into a triumph. Matt Owens is back at The Grapes on New Year’s Eve, and I can’t imagine you’ll find a better way to celebrate.
This was perhaps not the homecoming show that Owens was expecting but it ended up as a great night out. He wouldn’t have had dancing in the aisles at Chapel Arts, and as he told us after the show, they can play the acoustic songs next time.