GIG: Mari Wilson
Date: Saturday 26th September 2009
Venue: Old Town Hall, High Street, Hemel Hempstead, Herts
Cost: £12
Rating: Happy In Hemel

It has only been a few weeks since we last saw Mari performing (see the review from 6th Sept) so we did not expect a major deviation from what we had experienced with that show. We were, however, treated to another great performance, the sound was well mixed, Mari sparkled, and the set list had two extra songs included.

An addition to the line up from the last gig was guitarist Matt Backer who contributed some wonderful bits of lead as well as some gorgeous and sympathetic accompaniment to Adrian York's old school teacher's upright piano. Well it LOOKED like a school piano, but Adrian still managed to make it sound like a Steinway! It's still open for debate as to who had the most shimmiest shoes on tonight - Mari's white-silver shiny glitzy heels or Matt's dazzling shiny silver trainers!

The Beeb was excited by Matt's choice of gig gear. A vintage Gibson 335 was plugged into an old 1949 Fender amp. It sounded amazing. One minute there was honey dripping blues wailing out, the next it was the coolest laid back jazz chords. Wonderful stuff. And for some of the softer numbers in the second half of the set, he switched to a Taylor acoustic.

Adrian sat back behind the piano looking quite relaxed for most of the gig. He really looked like he was enjoying trading licks with Matt whenever they had the chance to do so. As always, his piano solo on Wild Horses (not the Susan Boyle version) was a highlight.

With the set list similar to the last gig, we won't comment on all of the songs, but will highlight a few that really stood out tonight. Mari's singing seemed to come effortlessly on all of the songs and she sounded particularly exquisite on the Paul McCartney song, “My Love” and another stellar performance was delivered on the emotional "I'm Getting There". “Do You Mind” had a nice guitar solo and a great boogie-woogie piano break and Mari’s version of Ellie Greenwich’s song “Be My Baby” is fast becoming a treasure. The additional songs in the set tonight were “Right For You” and "Have You Got What It Takes" both from the ‘Emotional Glamour’ CD, the latter being a very a catchy, Motown-like, girly type song with a "shimmy shimmy baby" hook.

Hearing Mari's new songs from her One Woman show again is quite a frustrating experience though. They sound so good and fill your head with images just like the old days before video. The frustrating bit is having to wait for the stage show to come together so that the songs can be fully realised. Still, the storylines in the songs pretty much guarantees that show will be a winner.

No two Mari shows are ever the same. Constant interaction with the audience keeps her on her toes. A great raconteur, her spontaneous stories plucked from her life's rich tapestry are always different and very amusing (the references to that morning's blow dry had the audience giggling), and now and again touched with poignancy, such as the story about her Dad's false teeth.
The Old Town Hall in Hemel Hempstead is a good sized venue for a show like this. The venue was recommended to Mari by Barb Jungr and it certainly brought out a good sized and very appreciative audience.

Mari has one more show scheduled – 1st November at Pizza Express Jazz Club in London. Check out her website or Myspace page for more details.

For those not familiar with Matt Backer, his CD 'The Impulse Man' is worth checking out. Not only does it demonstrate his strength as a guitarist and vocalist, the songs (all bar one written/co-written by Matt) are strong too.
The songs are all filled with rockin’ riffs and clever guitar licks and will have you tapping your feet along to the powerpop type tunes.

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