As Boo Radley’s mainman Martin Carr returns to the stage, Getintothis’ Jamie Bowman sees a retreat from the spotlight from one of Liverpool’s best songwriters
With a name that reeks of stardom, Satin Beige has a lot to live up to as she takes to the stage in the attractive surroundings of Leaf. A graduate of the LIPA conveyor belt, this Essex-born lass has happily made her home in Liverpool where her acoustic infused R&B combined with velvet vocals and sultry lyrics has brought an intoxicating mix of sensuality and sass to the table during many an uninspiring support slot. Where before she would stand out from the crowd with the use of her cello, tonight she appears upfront and confident behind her guitar with fine tunes like recent single Like You Did Before worthy of the wider audience that should, by right, be hers with any accusations of blandness put to bed by the presence of a pleasing bed of electronic beats and confessional tales.
The contrast between Beige‘s and headliner Martin Carr‘s current situations couldn’t be starker. Where the young songstress appears to be reaching for the stars, Carr appears to be a man who was never that comfortable with fame in the first place. At the height of Britpop he steered his band the Boo Radleys to the top of the charts with the ubiquitous Wake Up Boo! but in the two decades since he’s cut a detached and sometimes troubled figure with his periodic solo releases under the Brave Captain moniker, hinting at a pretty extensive comedown following the highs of the mid-90s.
Steadfastly refusing to join contemporaries like Sleeper, Space and the Bluetones on the nostalgia circuit, Carr shuffles on to the stage as he and collaborator Michael Krugman survey various banks of technology as if they are ancient texts. It’s undeniably a shock to see the curly haired Carr without a guitar around his neck and perhaps a disappointment to a supportive crowd expecting a trip through the Boo’s back catalogue of baroque pop and shoegazey dub.
But as the Boos hinted at with their masterpiece Giant Steps, Carr was never a songwriter content with standing still and his latest incarnation (inspired by the death of David Bowie) sees him working with samples, keyboards and the sort of drum beats that sound like they could splutter out at any moment.
With the crowd quickly won over, Carr grows in confidence as he wrestles each tune from his machinery and, judging by some of the lyrics, some pretty dark mental places. Paranoid and anxious, we hear references to Brexit and a sample of Nigel Farage at one point and there are frequent allusions to Carr‘s unhappy pop star life (‘I was swimming in the mainstream’). What he can’t shrug off however is that Beatles–esque way with a tune with the McCartney on downers loveliness of A Mess Of Everything a particular highlight.
Pausing to thank Pete Wylie for the loan of his guitar, when Carr does return to the six string we’re truly spoilt with a stunning version of Thinking of Ways (‘Just like always with a head full of beer I will try and tell someone tonight’) from Giant Steps while a rousing Damocles and a soaring Three Studies of the Male Back look to Carr’s past for inspiration and show a man beginning to grow more comfortable with his achievements as a songwriter.
Troubled and worn he may be but this is one Carr that’s not ready to be written off just yet.