Gaz, Joe and Maelor not lost in The Maze..
Gaz Brookfield is a very special performer – The Maze is a very special venue, and yet put the two together and you get some kind of exponential growth in awesomeness. With many people seemingly surprised I wasn’t over at the Hairy Dog for Ferocious Dog (including Gaz!) there really was only one choice for me on this occasion, as much as I’d have loved the other option too. Nottingham always seems to reserve an especially warm welcome for Mr Brookfield – and it is actually exhilarating to be a part of it. The last night of the tour too, so extra special for that too.
We drove into Nottingham and dumped the car behind The Maze and hotfooted it through town to find some of the revellers already well on their way in town – John, Angela, Russ, Michelle, Tony, Trudy and Wez were duly found in the ‘Spoons off St James’ Street. So drinks (soft drinks for me – boo!) and merriment commenced (well, for us – the rest of the party had been engaged with merriment for some time – not least Angela who’d earned yet another 7 deadly sins t-shirt from The Pit and Pendulum and gifted it to Ella, ha!).
Soon enough it was time for the walk back up the hill to The Maze – the back room wasn’t open yet, so we settled in the front room of The Forest Tavern and awaited with lots of other familiar and friendly faces. Soon enough we made our way into the venue to get wristbanded by Jayne and Lee, I found Maelor and Gaz inside – both somewhat surprised to find me there rather than in Derby, and once we’d all caught up it was soon time for the former to take the stage. That’s the bonus I’d not mentioned yet – support from Maelor Hughes and Joe McCorriston was also on offer. All for £8. What a bargain.
So after half an hour or so in the back room Maelor Hughes took the stage – the lovely thing about the crowd was they were up for taking in the support acts too. I’d expected nothing less, but it’s pleasing regardless. He kicked off with Cards Dealt, those intricate finger picky bits on guitar building into energetic strums and stomp box along with his melodic vocals. It made me realise I’d not seen him perform since a very rainy Deerstock Festival – which is frankly far too long. Not as long as we’ve been waiting for that album though which is tantalising close!
Christiania was up next, then the moving Morning Sun – one of my favourites! Better Day didn’t need any instructions to the crowd as to when to put the ‘oi oi’ bits in, which were done with gusto, then Down The Road which is a relatively new song. The showstopper of Maelor’s set though was up next – a heartfelt song called Lullabies dedicated to Noah – his six month old little lad, written before he arrived and speaking emotionally of the excitement of waiting to meet him, and a determination to live up what he needed to be for him – there were a lot of damp eyes in the room!
He finished up his set with a rousing Mill Town Boy – being a natural pedant I’ve always been amused that if his ashes were indeed thrown to a Northern breeze come the time then he’d end up down south, the direction of winds of course is determined from its source rather than its destination! The song finished up with a pastiche of Gaz’s Let the East Winds Blow (see, coz he wants to end up in the West Country) although in this case it was Let the South Winds Blow (meaning he’d end up in the North!). An amazing set, meteorlogical indiscretions aside.
Joe McCorriston was up next – he’s a performer who I don’t think has had the attention he deserves from me so I was determined to catch his set, and found myself a handy spot by the door to get the occasional blast of cool air from outside. It was warm in there! He has an immediate and energetic stage presence, he launched into Save Me singing Liam Gallagher style low into the microphone with his nose pressed right up against the mic – although not quite so much of the droning, this is a tuneful and heartfelt fella all at once.
Cardboard is Heavy Sometimes was up next then Alive, with an unfeasibly catchy vocal hook in there. Destiny was a diversion from the introspective to document somebody else, in this case a drug dealer – then Joe took the opportunity to road test some new songs in the mix for potential inclusion in his forthcoming fourth album. They sounded good to me! It’s an Addiction dealt with his addictive personality and the the over-consumption such obsessions can lead to and ultimately the need to cast something aside.
A trip back to the first album with They Won’t Believe You was next, then another new-song road test with My Illegal Therapy (again, I’d say that’s a keeper, Joe!). The set was drawn to a close with a rousing rendition of Blockbuster Blues. Another excellent set – I already felt like I’d had more than my money’s worth from the ticket money, and there was more than an hour of Gaz to follow. We headed outside to cool off between sets – and got nattering to the point where we almost missed the main man kicking off!
Gaz Brookfield started, the crowd had shifted to the front filling out the space beautifully and were intently watching as he struck up Solo Acoustic Guy, and then straight into Diabetes Blues and its reprise. There was some pretty epic crowd participation right from the off, giving Gaz the opportunity to take a break from the choruses and letting them pick up the slack. It’s a lovely moment when you witness those niggles and doubts a musician has prior to going on stage evaporate when they get the affirmation from the crowd that they’re ‘with’ them – and that happened on song two here.
Indeed, Gaz made the observation that essentially they were doing the same thing night after night – it really is a combination of the venue and the crowd that makes or breaks a gig, I’d never really thought about it like that but he’s absolutely right. The sound in The Maze is always absolutely bang on, and it does attract the right kind of gig goer. He’d had a difficult night previously in Manchester with swathes of chatty people in the crowd, so I think nights like this are just the tonic needed to restore the faith!
March of Progress was next to plug the new(ish) album – although the tour had clearly been a success on the merch front, he’d sold out of everything! Not that I imagine many people in the room didn’t already have it. The Busker Song was up next, Maelor bundled past us to chuck a coin on stage, nearly hitting him in the face – ha! Then back to new album with The Tale of Gunner Haines, a song which works so well acoustically. Under The Table was a swaying singalong – and it had a c-bomb snuck in there which I don’t think I’ve heard before! There was a pretty epic crowd singalong to finish the song.
It’s All So Rock and Roll started with some headbanging and throwing some horns before the more mundane-yet-charming pace of the song kicks in. Gaz was really enjoying himself, and visibly delighted by the gusto with which the ‘la la’ bits were picked up by the crowd. Ode to Ozzy was prefixed by the story that Ozzy had in fact saved the tour after Gaz’s car took an extreme turn for the worst in London early in the tour – meaning he had to go to Brighton from London via Bristol. A coughing fit during a chorus was ably covered by the crowd – seamless!
Cursed seemed the natural follow-up, documenting his continued atrocious luck with cars – he christened his new car ‘Bastard’ (with a Northern pronunciation too!). I’ve Paid My Money was dedicated to the chatty folk of Manchester, it’s an epic song but rarely needed in a place like The Maze, then the treat of Maps. I normally expect to hear that if Chris is in attendance but he wasn’t this time! Man of Means was a nice diversion into the past – during the instrumental bit where he’d normally pimp his merch he chose to pimp Joe’s instead, and clearly threw himself off a bit with a slight lyric slip when coming back in.
I Know My Place is an eloquent response to the pressures of Facebook on your daily doings, something I certainly empathise with at times, but can never quite make that break (although I did notice Gaz comment on something on Facebook recently, maybe he’s being lured back!). Land Pirate’s Life these days heralds the set winding down, and Thin was the ‘last’ song, although with no space for a withdrawal and return there was the promise of further songs should the crowd seem like they want it! Needless to say, the crowd did their participation part with aplomb without prompting!
The response at the end was loud and insistent – after a spell of controlling the crowd reaction with taking his guitar off (to boos) to putting it back on (to cheers) eventually we were treated to a three song encore – Diet of Banality kicked it off which is a seldom heard one (I checked my blog posts – I’ve recorded it twice before!). The capo position move gave away Bigger Man coming up next, the bulk of the room singing along every word, leaving the traditional end track of Let The East Winds Blow – again, the crowd not needing instructions on how to join in. It was pretty deafening!
At the end pre-and-post jump the crowd response was rapturous – that’s not an exaggeration. A visibly emotional Gaz looked so moved it was lovely, and very well deserved. The amount of energy he must’ve expended over than hour and twenty minutes or so was paid back in spades from the crowd creating that wonderful symbiotic circle of enthuiasm that make gigs like this ones that will live long in the memory. As much as I know that Ferocious Dog will have smashed it at The Hairy Dog, I’ve no regrets at all at my choice of entertainment for the evening.
A round of goodbyes were quickly made, and we took Russ, Tony and Trudy home before heading back – Michelle had been called away due to a family emergency, so we’re all thinking about her and hoping that things have improved today.