Wednesday 13th May
“You’re totally lush” shouts a punter as Mr Keep Calm and the Cancelled Cheques draw the beautiful track “No, No, No, No” to a conclusion in Glastonbury’s La Terre. I’d like to think I’m more articulate, but it’s not a bad word to sum it up – on this particular Sunday evening it was, as the definition of the word for this context will tell you, very rich and provided great sensory pleasure. Shame on you if you twisted that to give it sexual undertones.
The aforementioned track, one of my favourites from Mr Keep Calm, is a mellow number, which fits the vibe of La Terre, a café/restaurant and artisan space with a cosmopolitan feel that’s really my kind of setting when it comes to music. Our man fronting the band delivers a gorgeous vocal in this tale of heartbreak and the realisation that there’s no U-Turn to be had and although the subject of love and the abuse of it is often the inspiration behind any lyricist’s musings, that topic along with the mood and tone felt unique amongst a diverse range of melodic songs in an otherwise lively and upbeat set. And before you think it, yes, that seemed fitting for that environment too.
Playing for just over an hour and a half, the set was a delightful mixed bag that really makes it hard to define a genre for these four pleasant chaps who entertained us on the night. Internally that also seems to be the viewpoint and if you look to the band’s web presence they define their genre as ‘everything,’ hopping between several styles and experimenting along the way. It could be labelled as folk or indie, put aside the more respectable less clichéd singer-songwriter types (one of the new songs made me think of Badly Drawn Boy) and in hearing songs like “I Am Mr Keep Calm” you would immediately think they could easily slip into one of the rock genres.
As alluded to already, the songwriter and frontman of the pack has a variation of subject matter on hand, but he particularly likes to put the world to rights and this is evident in songs like “The Naked Truth” and “Labels” where he takes a swipe at some of the uglier aspects of modern day society. The latter, which outlines the frustrations of the stereotypes that are slapped on people after quick-fire judgment, was a highlight on the night and largely because of the funky guitar solo from James Bennett. Mr Keep Calm has been praised for ‘creating stirring images from the mundane’ and his knack for taking everyday observations and honing in on them in their music shines through on albums such as ‘Digest,’ which was released in late 2014.
The much-lauded young star Harry Carpenter received praise from punters when it came to drumming, whilst bass and double bass player Dan Shaw, held in high regard locally for his contribution to the growth of the local music scene, also offered backing vocals, which were lent to some beautiful harmonies with Mr Keep Calm. This was evident in “The Toast Fell Butter Side Down,” which is just a lovely song. At the other end of the set “A Little Part Of Me” proved to be a wonderful conclusion to a shindig that exuded energy and passion.
In watching Mr Keep Calm and the Cancelled Cheques on this occasion, I have to say that it was the most I have enjoyed a set from this always-entertaining bunch of talented musicians. Having spoken to Mr Keep Calm after the show, I know he’s excited about the band’s upwards trajectory and he has every right to be as the music feels tighter, the act more polished and they have the material to offer their strongest sets to date.
To me it’s obvious that the frontman is elevated by the presence of a full band behind him, not only in terms of lifting the performance of his earlier material from his days as a solo artist, but also when creating this eclectic mixture of styles, for instance, the earlier mentioned ‘rocky’ “I Am Mr Keep Calm” wouldn’t really fit in a set back in the solo days. It’s a settled unit now too, which is paying dividends – it’s not uncommon for solo acts to play with a full band from time to time with that makeshift line-up changing each time, but having made a brave decision to ditch solo in favour of a full band that he now regularly practices, gigs and creates with, it’s no coincidence that the overall quality has reached another level. On Sunday it showed and if the progression stays on the same course, it will only get better.
Words – Arran Dutton.
Find out more about Mr Keep Calm and the Cancelled Cheques at mrkeepcalm.co.uk – It should also be known that Mr Keep Calm is the man behind Oxjam Glastonbury and Street, which will be returning again this year with a unique twist. Keep up to date with that event, which brings lots of live gigs to the area all in aid of Oxfam, right here.