Mark Burgess / Cold Water Swimmer(s) / Tom J Johnson
Night n Day, Manchester
Friday 11th September 2021
While the boss man John Robb is over at Heaton Park to witness New Order’s biggest headline to date, I’m catching up with music royalty Mark Burgess who is back with purpose and an arsenal of classic songs from Middleton’s best ever band The Chameleons. A night of nostalgia with some solid support from a Cold Water Swimmer and rising new talent Tom J Johnson.
I’m in town walking down Oldham St in The Northern Quarter and it’s not fuckin’ raining! What’s going on? It’s packed, lively and vibrant in the fair City of Manchester and there’s already a queue forming outside the landmark venue of Night n Day. Why you may ask? Mark Burgess is back in town on the live scene to play an intimate acoustic gig and the excitement is building already. Organised by the ever rising duo of Mat E Critchley and Esther Ford, co owners of Deco Records (the Mark E Smith and Kay Carroll of Northenden) it’s a night not to be missed, especially when you have Cold Water Swimmers supporting who have released one of the albums of the year in my humble opinion.
The Surprise of the night for me is the excellent Tom J Johnson. According to Mat from Deco he was noticed doing covers on the live circuit and was given a nudge in the ribs to write his own tunes which is what he now excels in. He does start with a cover of All Along The Watchtower which is twisted out of shape into a great rendition he can claim as his own. His own songs cover everything from mental health, broken relationships, drugs, looking inside yourself, being a naive student in Manchester etc… Jesus can he play that guitar. He does fingerstyle pieces to die for and he massages those strings like an expert. It’s mesmerising stuff that has me hooked from the first song. A true talent that’s going to be big and you heard it here first…
As you may know by now, I’m a massive fan of Cold Water Swimmers for several reasons. They make me laugh and cry and they fill me with joy every time I listen to that solid debut album (which is at least once a week) I reviewed here. Chris Bridgett arrives at the venue in a splendid sailor type get up, his North East accent as strong as ever considering he’s lived in Levy for fuckin’ years. The only disappointment for me is that Carrie and Selina are not here to join him as they are both under the weather at the moment, so Chris takes to the stage on his lonesome with his big fuck off White Falcon which impresses me before he’s even struck a chord. The setlist is just pure magic and he reels off most of the album like an expert who knows his craft. He’s in the zone tonight ticking off his repertoire with Breaking Hearts, Be My Sunshine, the Motorhead tinged Love Is Insane, So Young and of course a spine tingling Summer Breeze which is possibly one of the best songs ever written. He’s sweaty, he’s animated, yet he looks so chilled in his favourite pair of battered Adidas and ripped jeans. An absolute class act that deserves the big time, yet he is DIY or die and doesn’t give a fuck.
And then there is Mark Burgess. A true artist in every sense and a gentleman who has penned some great songs in the early eighties and similar to Chris Bridgett, released one of the best debut albums Script Of The Bridge, which still stands the test of time today. I chat with him backstage early in the evening and I’m fuckin’ gutted I didn’t record our conversation which included fellow Middletonian and gig buddy Matt Woods who knew his dad. That’s another story that’s locked up here… Anyway, the set is stunning and it’s great to see a young lady right at the front with her face painted in true Goth style. Her parents were probably massive Chameleons fans and rightly passed down the legacy of the great songs we witness tonight. Remember kids, listen to your cool parents and bury yourself into the deep history of the inventive bands of the early eighties, Echo & The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes and of course The Chameleons who were cruelly on the verge of massive status yet to me were always massive. That’s story number two… The setlist is chock full of tunes like Fan & The Bellows, the excellent Nathan’s Phase, Pleasure & Pain, Paper Tigers, fuckin’ hell, it’s like the crown jewels of Chameleons classics. Highlights for me and probably the whole of the venue was a massive singalong of Up The Down Escalator, an enormous Second Skin and a fuckin’ blinding Swamp Thing to end the night. They say it never leaves you once you have the talent and tonight Mark proves that he is still as great a performer today and remains one of our national treasures. A pure joy to witness a guy still at his peak when it comes to engaging a crowd. A brilliant show to behold and a night I’ll never forget…
Photos courtesy of Hels Millington.
Words by Wayne Carey, Reviews Editor for Louder Than War. His author profile is here