Review: Beans On Toast at Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth

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From the start of his third annual show at Portsmouth’s Wedgewood Rooms, it’s made obvious to the audience that this isn’t going to be a standard Beans On Toast show. The usually loud and rousing musician takes to the stage in silence, picks up his guitar and breaks straight in to ‘2016’, his poetic, thought-provoking lament to the past year.

“Sorry that song is a bit of a downer”, he quips before welcoming longtime musical partner Bobby Banjo to the stage for a few crowd pleasing hits like ‘The War On War’ and ‘Things’. Naturally, such moments are what get the best reaction from the crowd, who passionately shout back every word.

Perhaps more so than usual his set is made up of new album cuts as Beans’ eighth album A Spanner In The Works was released the previous week. Whilst the more personal songs such as ‘Nanny Mac’ find the audience in attentive silence whilst some, like the upbeat and bouncy pro-weed song ‘It’s Only Natural’, get the audience singing along straight away. This is testament to Beans’ simple yet inclusive songwriting.

Many of these new album songs are accompanied on piano by Matt from supporting band Tensheds, something new for a Beans On Toast gig. Perhaps a more casual fan would hope to hear a more hit-filled set, but for many it was a treat to hear older cuts that Beans hadn’t been able to play before having Matt on keys this tour.

Soon Bobby is invited back onstage along with first support Sky Smeed, and the ramshackle four-piece band run through a beautifully poignant cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Everybody Knows’, an unexpected highlight of the night.

There was still a lot of impromptu fun – crowd favourite ‘MDMAmazing’ is interrupted to tell a story about how a Portsmouth resident left a less-than-lovely present on the bonnet of Beans’ van last time he was in town. During one song he asks the audience to “close their eyes and find their inner tree” and during another to spontaneously “imagine your own rap about the moon.”

Though less-seasoned fans may have wished they were leaving the show having sung along to a few more anthems, for someone who had been to their fair share of Beans On Toast gigs it was refreshing to see a twist of format. If his new album and live show are anything to go by, Beans On Toast is not an artist staying in one place.

Beans On Toast is back on tour in January for Independent Venue Week. His new album A Spanner In The Works is out now.

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