Manchester Deaf Institute
Sunday June 19th
The maverick, lesser spotted Lee Mavers- the erstwhile La’s frontman who has been off the radar for a couple of years made a secret return to the live stage at Manchester’s Deaf Institute. Whilst 20 000 people flocked to Kings Of Leon at the other side of the city a real songwriting genius was in town.
Rumoured to be the prelude to a series of acoustic shows that are about to be announced the gig was an off the radar triumph.
It‘s been a long time since Lee Mavers was a bass playing Stranglers fan who turned up at what is now The Masque in Liverpool and helped to clean up the derelict building to make it into a venue of some sorts. Also working on the project were Mike Badger and Paul Hemmings and a very young John Power amongst others. From this small pool of people and with many cloudy line up changes the La’s coalesced originally around the great Mike Badger before the focus shifted to Lee Mavers.
The La’s were ahead of the game. their stripped down, ultra melodic beat pop saw them a couple of years ahead of the Manchester bands- I remember reviewing them at Larks In The Parks festival in Liverpool in 1988 where they were supported by the Stone Roses – I said in the review that the La’s were going to break open this new scene of northern bands. Of course it all happened the other way round – Lee Mavers worked at his own pace.
This never seemed to bother him, he was on his own trip and it seemed like every musician in Liverpool went through his band- it is said in Liverpool that playing with Mavers is like an apprenticeship somewhat akin to playing with The Fall in Manchester! At some points when the band settled the line up there were flashes of genius like There She Goes and Timeless Melody- pure crystalline pure guitar pop, there was the debut album and then years of confusion. I interviewed Mavers a couple of times during the period and his wild eyed intensity made a lot of sense. This was purely music for musics sake, the rest of the world didn’t even exist.
Just when it seems like the legendary figure has disappeared into a cloud of rumours and a haze of whispered stories he seems to re-appear and for tonight’s show in Manchester the internet has been on fire. Accompanied on bass by Gary Murphy of defunct Liverpool band The Bandits, Mavers played a 15-song set including classics ‘Feelin’, ‘Timeless Melody’, and ‘There She Goes’ whilst they supported supporting Hyde & Beast.
The word had been out over the weekend that the supporting Lee Rude & The Velcro Underpants was in fact a pseudonym for Mavers making some sort of comeback.
The brisk run through of the set gave little clue as to whether this was a one of, a full comeback or a partial affair. Who can ever tell with someone as maverick as Mavers, that mixture of perfection and disdain making a normal music career impossible. If there was any stress Mavers showed little of it as he played through the set that was mainly made up of the La’s epynomous debut 1990 album. The low key nature of the affair even saw mavers wander to the back of the stage to break into a drum solo before returning stage front.
Opening with ‘Son Of A Gun’ the barely changed Liverpool legend ran through the rest of the set which included ‘Freedom Song’, ‘Clean Prophet’, ‘Come In Come On’, ‘Way Out’, ‘Doledrum’, ‘Timeless Melody’, ‘Feelin’, ‘There She Goes’, ‘I.O.U.’, ‘Knock Me Down’, ‘I Can’t Sleep’, ‘Liberty Ship’, ‘Callin’ All’, ‘Lookin’ Glass’. A set of timeless classics or a portal into a different time it’s impossible to tell. Where it all goes is impossible to tell as well. Mavers could disappear again or he could grab the moment. Everyone else from Oasis to just about every band that came out of Liverpool in the last twenty years awes him a debt. maybe he is happy being a cult, maybe his head is still too full of the music or the dust and guitars like another recluse Syd Barrett once said about himself to care…