Matt Berry & The Maypoles: Live (3 stars)

Matt Berry & The Maypoles: Live

TV guy and his crew summon up classic theme tunes and psych-folk dramas

Ahead of an upcoming tour with his band The Maypoles, Matt Berry has insisted that ‘if you come to one of our gigs expecting a character or stand-up routine then you could be very disappointed’. A fair enough warning to those Toast of London-ers or IT Crowd set who think that Berry = Funny, yet on this live collection there are a few moments when a wry smile might come across the lower part of your head.

How could you not allow yourself a warm chuckle for the audacity portrayed in his group’s haw-haw interpretation of the Ronnie Hazlehurst theme tune to BBC’s Sorry! (the 80s sitcom starring Ronnie Corbett)? And meanwhile, aficionados of 90s Britpop may find it vaguely amusing that among the Maypoles is one Mark Morriss, the former rug-cutting leader of The Bluetones.

One of the few problems with this collection is, rather unexpectedly, the voice of Matt Berry. For a man who has made a career in comedy on wordy bombast and curling, spinning and manipulating vowels ’n’ consonants all over the place, his singing is regrettably vanilla. And save for the regular ‘thank you very much’, he has zero in-between tune banter to entertain us with. Instead, it’s all down to the work of a fine band (including Mattie on his reliable Korg synth) as they rattle through a selection of Berry’s psych-folk / quasi-rock opera repertoire including ‘Take My Hand’ (the Toast of London theme tune), ‘Snuff Box’ (the Snuff Box theme tune) and ‘So Low’ (a rousing pub-stomp from 2009’s Witchazel).

It’s hardly an original criticism, but you can rarely listen to a live CD without feeling a little left out. This perfectly serviceable Xerox of what sounds like an exhilarating gig (or gigs given that this was culled from four of them) simply leaves listeners not quite in on the joke.

Matt Berry & The Maypoles: Live is released on Fri 20 Nov by Acid Jazz.

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