Review of concert from Review of concert from 2001-03-22: Liverpool, John Moore's University, with Steven Kennedy
Guardian, 2001-03-24
- Tony Naylor


Great Mersey pop - and no sign of the Beatles


The Guardian


Mersey Boys
John Moores University

Liverpool's reputation as a centre of musical creativity is much diminished these days. As Manchester has streaked ahead, its neighbour has despaired at its own lifeless scene. Tonight, however, Merseyside is fighting back. Stephen Done, curator of Liverpool FC's museum, has somehow turned a tape of his favourite tunes into a new EMI compilation, Mersey Boys and Liverpool Girls, and the launch party is giving precious exposure to local hopefuls.

Speed have to struggle with a terrible sound system, but the songs that do win through are idiosyncratic and well-crafted. Good Luck Charm, in particular, is part REM, part Roy Orbison. Sadly, it's probably Radio 2 material these days. Steven Kennedy may well be shunted into similar territory, due to his fiery, heart-on-sleeve delivery and retro-rock stylings. If his Waterboys-influenced songs occasionally veer towards rough-and-tumble Celtic rock, however, the great majority of his set would run current music-press darlings Starsailor close.

Elvis Costello is already sold on Kennedy, hence his guest appearance three songs from the end of his set. Together, they deliver a spine-tingling acoustic version of The La's Timeless Melody. Yes It Is, a Beatles song, is by turns plangent and pointed, and Costello is the perfect seething flanker to Kennedy amid the dark energy of To Lose Control.

How do you follow that? You put on Amsterdam, Liverpool's band-most-likely-to. They're on a mission to overthrow the monarchy, promote the joys of Ecstasy, and, apparently, rehabilitate Cher with their cover of Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves. 'If Hear'Say are evil - and they are,' declares frontman Ian Prowse, 'this guitar is a holy weapon.' Everybody is smiling. The gauntlet thrown down, Ian McNabb responds brilliantly. Eddie Izzard with an acoustic guitar, he cross-references, riffs on and intermingles Beatles, Neil Young and George Michael covers with classics like Love is a Wonderful Colour from his Icicle Works days. Pity then, that when he's joined by Amsterdam, he careers off into several patience-fraying guitar solos, When It All Comes Down ending in a hail of freeform noise.