Matt Berry - The Scala, London Live Review

Review of Matt Berry live at The Scala, London on 22nd March 09.

Matt Berry

It was a full house at London's Scala on Wednesday night as fans packed in to see star of the BAFTA-award winning comedy The IT Crowd. But it was Matt Berry the musician that drew in the crowds as he showcased songs from his upcoming third album, Witchazel. Having recently interviewed him, was keen to see him perform live.

In atmospheric low-lighting, Berry's live band came on stage wearing wild animal masks (reflecting the dark undertones of the countryside portrayed on the new record). They kicked off the evening's proceedings with a menacing, frenetic instrumental. Then, true to the style of his hangman character in the cult comedy Snuff Box, Berry, in pinstriped suit and paisley scarf, took command of the stage with a sexy swagger and a bottle of whisky. His trademark baritone launched into the tortured So Low - and the crowd loved it.

As you'd expect from Matt Berry, his set was permeated with references to his cult comedy creations. He sang Inn Keeper from AD/BC: A Rock Opera and the hilariously cheesey One Track Lover, a song performed by Berry's character Dr Lucien Sanchez in Garth Marenghi's Dark Place. The Snuff Box character surfaced again with The Hangman's Song and a darkly comedic monologue introduced the theme from the series.

Mid-set he returned to material from the new album with the delicate, melodic keyboard of Take My Hand. Then Berry promised the audience they were 'in for a treat', one of Witchazel's stand out tracks - The Pheasant. For this live performance the epic eight-minute instrumental was punctuated with music he penned for Steve Coogan's Saxondale. He referred to it as 'prog-rock extraordinaire' and the musically-complex song drew attention to the individual talents of his accomplished band. It also saw an impressive performance on the synth by Berry himself, who seemed totally absorbed in the music. The crowd were captivated. It was no wonder, then, that at the end of the set he was called back to the stage by rapturous applause for an encore, a reprise of the Snuff Box theme.

This was a memorable evening with a great atmosphere. It was billed as a one-off but, if Berry tours again and you enjoy his comedy, music or both, take the opportunity to go. Unlike the current trend to mix the two, where the music often suffers, Berry shows us how it should be done. And although the comedy is never far away - his songs are often lyrically tongue-in-cheek - it never detracts from the quality of the music.

Robyn Burrows

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