Die Shellsuit, Die!

An Alternative Music Magazine

The Cockpit, Leeds

Jonah Matranga

Due to my usual “driving to Leeds for a gig after work” time keeping, combined with the Cockpit’s “get the buggers on early so we can sell more beer at the crappy club night” policy, as per usual I missed the first artist of the Softcore tour, Joshua English.

His songs on the tour CD are ok though. I made it to the Cockpit just about in time to see the start of the second act, Jacob Golden.

It has to be said, when I saw that this show was at the Cockpit, my heart sank a little bit. Neither of the main gig rooms at the venue are really suited to this kind of quiet acoustic gig. Fortunately, the organisers clearly had the same thoughts as me, and the gig was actually upstairs in the bar area, a much smaller and more intimate place. People were crammed in, but the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. In fact, it was the first time in quite a while I’ve had a proper conversation with a complete stranger at a gig, beyond “’scuse me mate”. Jacob Golden played an absolute blinder of a set, made even more impressive by the fact that most of the audience (Myself included) had probably never heard any of his songs. Sweet, folky songs, with just a hint of something a little bit darker, maybe shades of Radiohead. Well worth checking out.

When I signed up to review the gig, I was under the impression that Jonah Matranga was headlining, and in all honesty he was the only reason I went. He wasn’t headlining as it turned out, occupying the main support slot before Frank Turner. It didn’t matter though, because Jonah Matranga is the best live act in the world. TM. I’ve extolled the wonders of his songwriting prowess in my earlier review of his new album; suffice to say that the Jonah live experience eclipses even that. He has a power and passion in his performance that goes beyond the usual jumping around on stage and posturing. When Jonah sings about heartbreak and pain, he really means it. The sight and sound of a man pouring out his heart and soul on a tiny stage is really something special. The set was only slightly marred, and certainly not spoilt by incessant feedback on the vocals. How it can be so difficult to get rid of feedback from a microphone, a guitar, two speakers and a single monitor I have no idea. Then again I’m not a soundman, so I really do have no idea. The feedback was cleared up by turning the volume down about 50%, but not before Jonah had performed a song completely unamplified.

I should also point out that Jonah Matranga is the nicest man in rock, possibly the world. This is official.

It was going to be a mammoth task for anyone to follow Jonah, and for me Frank Turner was rather underwhelming. He plays a folky brand of acoustic, Dylan inspired punk, in the vein of Billy Bragg, but I couldn’t help but think that the success of his previous band (He used to be in Million Dead) may have contributed to the amount of people at the show. There are artists out there (Andrzej Stepien, Al Baker, Russ Substance, Magnus Magnusson, Gretzky to name but a few) who perform better songs with what feels to me like more heart. It wasn’t bad, just... Underwhelming. If you can track down the Gretzky EP Look Out Dewsbury you’ll see what I mean.

Ok, so Frank gets a six, Jacob gets an eight and Jonah gets a big fat ten, so I guess that works out at an eight average.