From the Mayor of London’s office come dubious missives promising a halt to the capital’s cultural drain, but that the office continues to oversee the closure of live venues across central London means that all musicians – and that means everyone – must prepare for the day when there will be no stage on which to walk out.
The endgame is writ large upon the wall. This urge to rid the metropolis of live venues can be taken as a type of cultural kettling; that is, as a deliberate concentration of a dwindling number of venues, it only encourages Londoners to stay indoors for their kicks. As a result, we’re all in danger of becoming indoors people; molelike, half blind, made passive, deaf dumb and kind, preferring instead to tame events by remote control and increasingly unable to appreciate all that is life-affirming about public performance. Which is why a club like the one at 100 Oxford Street and a band like Mother Earth are so essential.
Simply, this gig was about some of the best live players around needing to play before an appreciative audience. It was also thankfully free of the iPad brigade who tend, as is their deranged wont, to mar live performances with that curious zombie-like presence of theirs. But this wasn’t that type of gig. Imposters weren’t welcome and, not being welcome, failed to turn up.
So it was with a clutch of brand new songs demanding a live airing that a gleeful Matt Deighton took centre stage. As a solo artist, from whom songs of beauty are forever taking wing (as an undersung talent none come much bigger than him), his return to the capital with his old band Mother Earth came as a reminder of how accomplished musicians ought to be if music is to be heard live.
For one reason or another, the original Mother Earth line up (of Bryn Barklam, Neil Corcoran and Chris White) is no longer available. But the songs have lived on and, undeterred (and with the blessing of his old band mates), Deighton has conjured a new Mother Earth into existence, comprising Hammond organ wizard and ex-Style Councillor Mick Talbot, the golden-throated Sulene Fleming, Ernie McKone on bass duties and Crispin Taylor behind the kit.
Their new four-track EP (the evening’s totem) includes a funked-up version of the Derek & The Dominos classic ‘Got To Get Better In A Little While’, and new tracks ‘Soona Than Much Layta’, ‘Coming Unstuck Again’ and ‘Good Things’, all played with a rare elan on the club’s narrow stage and demonstrating the band’s ability to reach effortlessly through the genres. And hearing tracks off the 1993 ‘The People Tree’ album played live again – including ‘Jesse’ (twice) and ‘Apple Green’ – had everyone wondering why Mother Earth never became a major force in the ’90s, while other lesser acts did.
The evening proved that, when it’s done right, a reformation need not be a trap. The claim that it’s folly for a band to reform has usually been spat from the bitter lips of once great and now oh so horribly insecure naysayers no longer themselves able to cut it in the live arena. Such soundbites smack of sour grapes and sour grapes are for the sour of spirit. Unlike Matt Deighton and his new cohort who, unbowed and defiant, gave a hungry London crowd something flavoursome to chew on.