Beans On Toast
Rough Trade East, London
3rd Dec 2018
With his 10th album A Bird In The Hand released on 1 December 2018, Essex folk artist Beans On Toast has embarked on a record store tour across the UK, passing through London’s Rough Trade East. James Ayles was there to take it in.
Considering his entire set list was written clearly on the album sleeve of his new record A Bird In The Hand, Beans On Toast is able to inject a remarkable amount of chaos into his in-store show at Shoreditch’s Rough Trade East. A bright and breezy run-through of all 10 album tracks with added commentary, there’s still enough time for Beans – aka Jay McAllister – to stamp his inimitable mark on proceedings.
This is a special night for Beans, who has his 10-month-old daughter – the centrepiece of the album – in the crowd and at one point accuses her of heckling him as she laughs at the back of the room.
With his 10th studio album released on 1 December – as one is every year to coincide with his birthday – this is the Essex cult folk singer’s third in-store show since the record’s launch party in Nuneaton, which was chosen by Beans simply for being the closest venue to the centre of the country. As ever, McAllister’s mid-set chat is every bit as engaging and entertaining as the material he’s playing. He gives great insight into Homerton Hospital – in his own words, the song came about after Donald Trump’s criticisms of the NHS and instead of another withering takedown of the US President – of which 2017 album Cushty featured several – he instead opted to sing about the characters in the hospital that bought it to life.
Slowly, inevitably, brilliant chaos seeps into the 45-minute set. As he meanders to the end of anti-plastic anthem Bamboo Toothbrush he takes time to explain the end-of-track singalong, and decides to bring an audience member to the stage to conduct it. Admittedly, it’s not his catchiest jingle and is rather shambolically yet entertainingly executed, but the conductor still plants a kiss on his cheek as she departs the stage. This sums up the charm of Beans as a live performer – his ability to bring his songs to life with those charming extra details and just a little carnage.
A sense of calm gradually returns as he then introduces album standout Watching The World Go By and labels it the “happiest song I’ve ever written”. Most certainly, it marks a departure from the rather angst and woe-filled musings of his last couple of efforts. The final two tracks sum up quite perfectly where McAllister is right now – Please Give Generously, a sombre and heartfelt take on homelessness while Miss You like Crazy circles back to his daughter.
Still a little mental but with a responsibility and fresh perspective that serves only to make him a more interesting and developed musician, this gradual rebirth suggests that, as album 10 passes, there will be plenty more to come yet.
All words by James Ayles. James is on Twitter.