Live: Tristan MacKay @ St Pancras Old Church.

This is the second time I’ve seen Tristan Mackay; the first was in support of Dan Patlansky at the Borderline a few months ago, and I recall thinking how easily he managed to silence what was a fairly raucous crowd. The songs and their lyrics are poetry in their own right, but his ability to engage with people through his storytelling, honesty and humour really set him apart. And the intimate setting of St Pancras Old Church on a warm summer’s evening is the perfect location for him to showcase his second album, Wire And Wood.

Tristan Mackay (Andy Sampson)

Tristan Mackay (Andy Sampson)

This is certainly one of the most unique and atmospheric live venues in London, and given this is the start of Glastonbury weekend, its perhaps apt that the first thing that greets you on entering the church is a heavy smell of incense. There is a small bar, but this is no boozy rock club; it’s a proper grown up venue where the music and the artist takes centre stage. From the moment that Tristan comes onstage in his trademark hat, you can close your eyes, and go gently with the flow with a performer whose voice, soul and guitar seem completely seamless.

Tristan Mackay (Andy Sampson)

Tristan Mackay (Andy Sampson)

Opening with the short but haunting You Win Again from the new album he drifts straight into the more upbeat I’ll be Yours Tonight, with its almost Will Young-esque tenor vocals. And its during this song that you really start to notice how Tristan uses his guitar as an extension to his vocals and how effortlessly he can move between playing and singing. Whether it be slow ballads, or more bluesy tracks like This Old Heart it all works in wonderful harmony.

Tristan Mackay (Andy Sampson)

Tristan Mackay (Andy Sampson)

“Did anyone come here just on a punt?” he asks, the reasons becoming clear later on when he recounts a wonderful story of a previous tour when only 3 people turned up to one of his concerts. But its this honesty and self-effacing humour that makes an evening with Tristan so rewarding. Whether its discussing his up and down emotional state (Still Here), the incredible love for his daughter (Lullaby For Layla), or the sometimes difficult relationship with his parents, you’re drawn into his world.

Tristan Mackay (Andy Sampson)

Tristan Mackay (Andy Sampson)

Time flies when you’re having fun, and before you know it, its 10pm and Tristan is midway through his Beth Hart inspired song A Kind Of Blue, a beautiful slow balled with some awesome guitar playing; unfortunately this also highlights one hazard of playing in a church as the church clock decides to chime mid song. That said it doesn’t interrupt matters, aside from a shared laugh with the crowd, and a wry smile skywards.

Tristan Mackay (Andy Sampson)

Tristan Mackay (Andy Sampson)

A 4 song encore is almost obligatory, and includes my favourite song of his, Wine And Me which was used in the Channel 4 series, Skins. It’s a wonderful fragile love song of a broken relationship and underlines the empathy he’s created throughout the evening. Anyone that’s ever split up with someone will find something in there.

Tristan Mackay (Andy Sampson)

Tristan Mackay (Andy Sampson)

And after all that, he even has time at the end to talk to some of those who helped sponsor his album through the Kickstarter campaign he ran. The line nicest man in showbiz is probably an overused metaphor, but I don’t care. I’m adding Tristan to my list.

Photography and review by Andy Sampson. Tristan MacKay @ St Pancras Old Church. 27th June 2015.

Andy also has his own great site here:


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