04 October 2019 (gig)
13 October 2019
It’s interesting to observe how quite a few 80’s pop/soul/jazz bands are still recording and above all still touring, with the Blue Note franchise circuit being a useful ally in this latter case, as you can perform all over the world.
Tonight at the Blue Note in Milan, Matt Bianco are to perform, it being the second of a three night sold out residency. Checking out my vinyl albums from 1984, along with ‘Hatful Of Hollow’, ‘The Unforgettable Fire’, ‘Ocean Rain’, ‘Brilliant Trees’ and ‘Rattlesnakes’ for example, I also have Sade’s ‘Diamond Life’ and indeed, ‘Who’s Side Are You On’ by Matt Bianco. Arguably, I was, rather am, a sucker for, if not sophisticated, let’s say refined pop/jazz.
Only Mark Reilly(vocalist) remains from the original line-up but the format with female lead/backing vocalist, keyboards, rhythm section and horns remain the same. The band’s latest album is 2017’s “Gravity” which has a slightly more serious jazz/pop sensibility in both style and content, and quite a few are played tonight but the fun-loving, lively and easy listening early songs are the ones that are able to hit home.
Matt’s voice, maybe rather subdued but that monotone yet silky touch is still just about enough to compliment the excellent band and so songs like ‘More Than I Can Bear’, ‘Whose Side Are You On’, ‘Sneaking Out The Back Door’ and ‘Half a Minute’ still get you clicking your fingers and tapping your feet. An inventive drum solo by Sebastiaan De Krom from Jamie Cullum’s band and a superlative sax solo by the talented Dave O’Higgins led the band into the final couplet of hit singles, ‘Yeh Yeh’ and ‘Get Out Your Lazy Bed’.
Certainly it’s light and undemanding entertainment, but it’s still sways to the right side of cool rather than being clichéd or trite,. Even if it’s unlikely new recordings will make any headway into our popular culture, as a live act, they still have some presence and can groove enough to entertain the masses.