Beans On Toast opened the second leg of his UK tour on a blustery and drizzly Friday night at Chalk in Brighton, newly refurbished and expanded from its days as The Haunt.The gig opened with Matt Millership better known as Tensheds performing a solo show. His keyboard wrapped in a hippyish tie dye throw, unlike the wooden construction he uses as keyboard player for Jim Jones And The Righteous Mind.
Tensheds solo show is quite a contrast from the big sound on the latest album release Death Row Disco, with drummer Ed Wells, but Matt’s voice had the strength to carry the songs, and added a harder focus to the more emotional tunes. The set was fairly brief, with tracks from earlier releases The Dandy Punk Prince and Crazy Beautiful, offerings Sharp Threads and Youngbloods from the latest album, steadily getting faster and faster, giving a glimpse of what to expect when Tensheds tour in a few months as a band. Shoot Myself opened with a classical flourish building into a piledriving rhythm that intensified, swirled, fell, and rose again.
Exile, a tune recounting the conversation between a prison inmate and his partner was played on acoustic guitar and harmonica, not surprisingly sounding slightly West Coast folky, which fitted the sentiment perfectly. Then Matt returned to the keyboard to complete the set.
There was little dialogue between songs, but before performing the powerful and rich Suicide Song, Matt explained the inspiration for the song at length, clearly heartfelt and this seemed to open up a relationship with the audience. The set finished with an uptempo uplifting blues boogie romp in Doghouse. Tensheds was well received by the crowd, holding their attention, but it was a shame that the timing of the event with an early curfew meant his performance started with a small audience. By the end of the forty minute set the venue had filled considerably with an appreciative crowd.
There was a short break during which the audience seemed to grow very quickly. A varied and good natured, boisterous audience of different ages and tribes which I always see as a good sign of things to come. Beans On Toast, or just plain Beans as fans seem to call him came on stage with no fanfare in well worn combat trousers, t shirt, baseball cap and barefoot, and began singing a short song, almost a poem decrying the current state of politics and politicians.
The rest of the band came on stage as he was singing, Matt Millership returning on keyboard duties, Lewis Durham picking up a guitar and Kitty Durham settling behind the drum kit.
Kitty and Lewis are two thirds of London based trio Kitty Daisy And Lewis and throughout the set swapped around on guitar, drums and bass demonstrating their musical talents with some nice jazzy strumming from Lewis in a few songs.
Matt Millership got in on the multi talented musicianship act too, strapping on the bass for a few songs. The band were stylishly dressed, particularly the Durhams, which contrasted well with the festival attire Beans was wearing.
I came to Beans On Toast with no knowledge of his material or style so had an open mind and no preset expectations. As this was 31st January the UK’s departure from the EU at 11 pm figured heavily, the opening song being a protest at Brexit, then climate chaos came under the spotlight.
The band performed a few songs from the latest album The Inevitable Train Wreck, all on a theme of current events, World Gone Crazy, England I love You, and others, apparently gloomy subject matter but as explained Beans went into the Durham’s studio to make a record about our present state of affairs that at least sounded happy, calling on their rock n’ roll experience. He went on to joke that it’s Friday night, we should all be happy.
The band left the stage for beans to continue his set solo which seemed much more familiar territory for the audience who greeted the first three songs, all about festivals, very enthusiastically. Perhaps the greatest response was to Take Your Shit Home With You which the organisers of Boomtown asked him to write to encourage festival goers not to leave their tents and rubbish behind for others to deal with, and debunk the myth that charities collect up tents after festivals.
The feel of the gig changed during this part of the set, a real festival vibe with the younger members of the crowd particularly getting involved, the gig within a gig. More tales and songs about touring around Europe followed, one particular story about his love of German windows getting lots of laughs, a great routine no stand up comedian could have exploited more effectively.
There was no set list for this part of the show, Beans taking requests from the crowd, no stories, no introductions, just playing the songs to the delight of the fans.
Then a ‘Deutsche remix’ of Chicken Song preceded by yet another tale of life on the road. Beans asked for a circle of space to be cleared in front of the stage, and introduced the ‘Brighton Queens’ whose wedding he had performed at, and asked the crowd to give them space to dance, and then encouraging everyone to take their partners for a waltz style dance, which went down a storm.
Beans jumped off the stage and sang a song about robbing banks in the round in the middle of the audience before returning to the stage for the last song of the solo set, an almost Edwardian music hall style drinking song that given the state of those at the front was pretty apt.
The band rejoined him on stage for the last part of the show, firstly for a protest song about the rich versus the poor, ‘we’re singing about the end of the world again’ he joked. A tune about Saying Thank you To Robots followed by a sincere When You Hold Me. Last song of the set was On And On, about how no matter what happens, life goes on and real pleasure can be found in the mundane events of life.
There was an inevitable encore but the curfew was fast approaching so ‘none of that going off shit to come back on’. Beans once again going solo, saying ‘Last one about the redistribution of wealth in the world, before I see you at the merch stall to flog you stuff’ closing the night with You Should Be Fucking Happy, which we were!
Beans is a great raconteur, entertaining the crowd throughout the evening, chatting about past experiences and events that provided him with inspiration for his songs, and quite often not naming the songs, so apologies for the omissions on my part. Not that it mattered much as the audience were well acquainted with his back catalogue and joined in the familiar songs with gusto. The evening had some really entertaining spontaneous moments, and during the mid section the rotten weather outside was banished, we were in a marquee at a summer festival and loving every minute.
There’s clearly a real affection between Beans and his fans. After the gig he chatted at length signing albums and books, and creating graffiti style canvasses off the cuff to the chagrin of the security staff who were trying to clear the venue for the club night. His optimism and joy are infectious, no matter what’s happening in the world. Go to a gig on this tour, you’ll have a great time and will leave with a smile on your face.
Live Review & Photography of Beans On Toast by Simon Partington at Chalk in Brighton on January 31st 2020