Live Review: Jon Gomm, The Jazz Cafe, 21st October 2015

Jon Gomm vid cap
Image from Jon Gomm, “What’s Left For You?”, filmed by Owen Plummer and Danielle Millea

“Last night I watched a man nearly kill a guitar, and a guitar nearly kill a man.” Sadly not the words of this scribe, as they are so eloquent and accurate, but the words of a good and close friend who was also in the audience to witness the compelling emotional candour of two of the UK’s foremost guitarists playing at Camden’s renowned venue, The Jazz Cafe, last week.

In support, Matt Stevens, one of the progressive music scene’s finest proponents of six or more strings, both in his solo work and that of his band The Fierce And The Dead. A gentle, excitable giant, Stevens’ joy at playing this venue in support of Gomm (the two musicians have been friends for many years) radiates from the stage in demonstrative, impulsive waves. What Stevens can’t do with some well placed loops, distinct and singular soloing and some seriously off-kilter time signatures is nobody’s business to know.

The first death of the night nearly comes when Stevens’ guitar throws not one, but two strings as a result of the incandescent fury of his playing. A spontaneous bout of audience participation ensues as we are all invited to keep the interrupted song’s beat through clapping, whilst in the background The World’s Fastest On-Stage String Change takes place. As soon as Stevens starts playing again, a third string snaps and a second guitar is quickly sourced to bring the set to it’s climax. It’s an heroic 20 minutes of live music, made all the more compelling for the added drama and the triumph wrought from potential disaster.

Jon Gomm is a very different prospect altogether. His physical presence on stage in Camden is one of outward calm, containing an intense inner-fire. When he speaks from his bare-footed frame to explain a playing technique, give context to a song or even chasten less attentive members of the audience, he does so in considered tones that make his points directly and with warm, dry, occasionally dark humour. It’s not long before pin-drop silence envelopes the room as all become lost in this most compelling of performers and performances.

If you’re not familiar with Gomm’s style and technique, he is a musician and songwriter of unparalleled power and capacity, using his instrument to conjure a whole orchestra with the touch of just two hands. Percussion, rhythm, bass and lead are all present at any one time, leaving you wondering how the man doesn’t physically resemble an eight-armed Indian goddess.

All of which would be extraordinary in itself, but Gomm’s compositions are lyrical, electrifying and heart-rending in and of themselves. Never mind the guitar-wrangling, the man also has another instrument of exquisite pulchritude in his singing voice, which he controls throughout the night to mesmeric effect.

From the deeply personal to the broadly political, Gomm’s set list at The Jazz Cafe moves sublimely between the progressive 10-minute excursion of “Everything”, the Rastafarian-on-a-train inspired “What’s Left For You?”, perhaps Gomm’s most well known pieces in his cover of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” and the Stephen Fry endorsed “Passionflower”, and on through new song “Deep Sea Fishes” and the piece that specifically draws on his experiences of living with bi-polar disorder, “Telepathy.” The latter in particular draws attention to how deeply invested in his art Gomm is, requiring some deep breaths post-performance and a brief explanation in a choked voice that it is hard to play without returning to the crushing lows of his emotional state at the time of its writing.

A moment of levity comes as the night draws to a close, Gomm requesting that the house lights be brought up to commemorate the occasion with a performer-audience group-selfie. He then proceeds to leave the lights on, unplug his guitar and stand at the front of the Jazz Cafe’s small stage, leaning in to the audience for an intimate, amplification-free rendition of “Gloria.”

Touching, angry, passionate, poignant: at The Jazz Cafe Gomm proves to be the living embodiment of the musician making sense of the world through his instrument, his art and the tensions that lie therein. In doing so he helps his audience immeasurably along the way. Catch him as soon as you can.

Jon Gomm played:

“Stupid Blues”
“What’s Left For You?”
“Ain’t Nobody”
“Wukan Motorcycle Kid”
“Deep Sea Fishes”
“The Weather Machine”
“Gloria” (Encore – Unplugged)

Connect with Jon Gomm at:

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Matt Stevens confirms 2015 tour dates

Matt Stevens

Influential guitarist Matt Stevens has confirmed a series of tour dates for 2015 both for his solo work and as part of The Fierce And The Dead.

Stevens reveals that the live shows have been arranged around what will be a busy year of recording sessions.

Says the musician: “I’m not doing as much this year to allow time to work on the next Fierce And The Dead record, and to write new solo material.

“But I’m hugely excited to be playing my first solo show in Italy, and to be playing with Jon Gomm and Steve Rothery.”

A new EP from The Fierce And The Dead is expected later this year.

Stevens’ confirmed tour dates are as follows:

Matt Stevens solo acoustic shows
Jun 14th: Rome, Batteria Nomentana, Italy
Jul 04th: Manchester, Band On The Wall – with Steve Rothery
Jul 25th: Belfast Guitar Festival
Oct 21st: London, Jazz Cafe – with Jon Gomm
Nov 07th: Milton Keynes, Stables – with Steve Rothery

The Fierce And The Dead
Jun 21st: Rhythms festival, Hitchen
Jul 03rd: Camden, Black Heart
Aug 21st: ArcTanGent festival
Oct 04th: Summers End festival

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Nightwish, Gryphon, Matt Stevens to guest on new Gandalf’s Fist LP

Gandalfs Fist David Wala
Photo (C) David Wala,

Prog rockers Gandalf’s Fist have released further details of their new album.

The band have today announced that their new LP, the follow up to 2013’s critically lauded A Day in the Life of a Universal Wanderer, will feature collaborations with Nightwish’s Troy Donockley, Gryphon’s Dave Oberlé, It Bites’ John Mitchell and instrumental guitar virtuoso and member of The Fierce And The Dead, Matt Stevens.

Gandalf’s Fist chief composer, Dean Marsh commented on the news: “I’m over the moon to announce these collaborations – each and every musician involved has really gone the extra mile with their contributions to this record… it feels great to welcome such an esteemed ensemble to the ridiculous world of Gandalf’s Fist – I really can’t wait to show everyone what we’ve come up with!”

Drummer/singer from 70’s folk-prog heroes Gryphon, Dave Oberlé, who joins the ensemble on vocals and bodhrán, remarked: “I was delighted when Dean approached me to play a small part in the recording of this album. Having listened to previous Gandalf’s fist albums I had been very impressed with the standard of musicianship, composition and production. I tend to be rather selective these days about what projects I get involved in but this is most certainly a band to watch out for.”

As well as band mainstays Dean Marsh and Luke Severn, Gandalf’s Fist have recently expanded to include new members Chris Ewen and Stefan Hepe.

You can keep up with progress on the new album at Gandalf’s Fist’s new production blog here.

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New music releases, 31st March 2014

New and notable releases this week, 31st March 2014:

Matt Stevens - Lucid
Lucid, Matt Stevens

Broken Crown Halo, Lacuna Coil
Out Among The Stars, Johnny Cash
Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life, Various Artists
Paranoid (Remastered Edition), Black Sabbath
All You Can Eat, Steel Panther
Education Education Education & War, Kaiser Chiefs
Head or Heart, Christina Perri
Himalayan, Band of Skulls
In My Soul, Robert Cray
Empire Of The Undead, Gamma Ray
Cope, Manchester Orchestra
Troublegum? (Deluxe Edition), Therapy
Imaginary Enemy, The Used
In Dub (Box Set), Killing Joke
A Dotted Line, Nickel Creek
The Complete Albums Collection (Box Set), The Alan Parsons Project

All of the above and many more are available via the Skin Back Alley Music Store.

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Matt Stevens to release new album in March

Matt StevensProgressive rock guitarist Matt Stevens is gearing up to release a new album.

His fourth solo album, Lucid, will be released on March 31st via Esoteric records. It is set to feature contributions from prog luminaries such as Jem Godfrey, Pat Mastelotto, Lorenzo Filiciati and Charlie Cawood.

Stevens has described the forthcoming release as “an album that reflects a love of Jesu and Celtic Frost as much as it does a passion for Mahavishnu Orchestra and King Crimson.”

You can place a pre-order for the album here.

Stevens is playing the following dates around the UK in 2014:

Rainton Meadows Arena, North East Guitar Show March 16
Leamington The Assembly (supporting Lifesigns) March 28
Godalming Francombe Music Club (supporting Giltrap & Wakeman) April 3
Troubador London Guitar Night May 4
Leamington The Assembly Trinity Charity Night (with Touchstone, The Reasoning and more) May 18
Leicester The Musician (supporting The Enid) June 14
Balham Angel Resonance Music Festival August 1-3
Northants Irchester Country Park Woodfest August 9
Cambridge Rock Festival – Acoustic Stage August 10
Leeds/Bradford Guitar Show October 5
Liverpool Guitar Show November 23

Check out the promo video for Lucid below:

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