Chris Murray – Brixton Academy, London

By paul

Monday 10 August 2009
The Windmill, Brixton
Support: Apologies, I Have None + Calvinball + One Night Stand In North Dakota

As Chris Murray stands guitar in hand ninety minutes into set it?s hard not to marvel at just how good his one man acoustic ska act is. Quality song after quality song has led to the obligatory ?Rock Steady? and a joyous, if not slightly polite, crowd sing-along. Unplanned and unplugged, this is exactly how everybody should see this man perform.

Rewind a few hours and a big shout out is in order for the Staying South promo team; tonight has another fantastic undercard portraying the varied UK scene in an oh so deserving light. Opener ONE NIGHT STAND IN NORTH DAKOTA (mouthful) has a simple set-up; two guitars, two vocals and an impressive sound. Integrating softened singing and fiercer bellowing, the Durham two-piece is streets ahead in terms of nailing that beaten-but-not-broken acoustic grit that is on the increase, and manage to deliver it all with wit and languid charisma. (3.5/5)

Sheffield quartet CALVINBALL (ballsy) rips through twenty minutes of straight-up punk rock that fits right in there alongside The Arteries and You Me and the Atom Bomb. Fast, melodic and foot-stompingly addictive, this is pretty much the blueprint for the type of punk you can expect at The Windmill on a regular basis. These Northerners should come South more often. (4)

APOLOGIES, I HAVE NONE (bawling) has a fanbase, that?s for sure. A two-pronged attack of electric guitar and drums (a style more noisy acoustic than Winnebago Deal noisefest) is accompanied by mouthed words aplenty from a crowd that has noticeably skulked to the front. Everyman and his dog have been throwing plaudits in the direction of the London duo and on tonight?s performance it?s easy to see why. A brief set is splattered with heartfelt, passionate and grainy vocals (from both parties during instrument swaps) and has that spiky-but-mellow feel to it. Good stuff, indeed. (3.5)

It wasn?t all that long ago CHRIS MURRAY (gentlemanly) was in the capital warming up the brisk English weather with quaint ska joviality but tonight is different. Gone is the shackled, time-limited set of the Underworld. In comes the oozing character of The Windmill; grotty walls garishly painted and seemingly held together by band stickers; candlelit JD bottles (empty, thankfully); and a curfew that?s pretty much nonexistent. The Windmill is a unique place and tonight it feels just right for Murray.

Opening song ?Rastaman? is one of the few selections Murray makes himself for tonight is to be a ?fan choice? affair. It?s not unusual to see the Canadian throw the floor open to suggestions but tonight it appears this is all he wants to do. The result is calls for the likes of ?We Do the Ska?, ?F-Train?, ?Steady Beat Convention? and ?Dinosaur?. It?s quite the discography pillage. When Murray does guide things along it tends to be to air new material, something that seems to buoy him.

The result is a set that feels special. In some ways the crowd is a little too restrained (Murray really wants people to ?go mental?), most likely out of awe for what is an incredible show. One man and his guitar; such a simple concept, such a result. So ska gem after ska gem is pumped out (?The Real Ska?, ?So Many Roads?, ?One Everything?), seeing off what would ordinarily be just another mundane Monday. Murray simply strums away with a big smile and humble charm. The accolade for best song tonight though is shared by ?Running From Safety? (a knowing wink to life on the road) and ?Why We Go To War? (a call for peace that manages to combine serious intent and humour).

In short, Chris Murray is always a worthwhile watch but tonight there?s a little extra panache and a lovely sense of intimacy to the whole show. Fantastic. (4.5)

Alex Hambleton