Can you just imagine the telephone conversation…
“Hello, This is Grateful Fred …No not dead, FRED …Yes, we’d like to play Merry Hell in your church”.
Well Colin Maddocks (aka Grateful Fred) and Merry Hell’s Virginia Kettle obviously managed to convince the powers that be, that their intentions were good and that the request had nothing to do with Zombies or Satanism, because the Concert For The Refugees went ahead this week at The Nordic Church in Liverpool, raising over £1,300 for “Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)” who undertake amazing work throughout the world helping refugees.
It was a great night of music at this magnificent venue, with Wigan-based folk rock band “Merry Hell” in the headline spot, supported by ‘The Grateful Fred Ukulele Trio” and “The Good Intentions”.
And that’s how the evening started – with Good Intentions. Or at least two-thirds of them. Peter Davies on guitar and Gabrielle Monk on accordion, opened with a lovely set of Americana Country songs from the band’s extensive repertoire.
Then it was over to the Grateful Fred Ukulele Trio.
I’d heard good things about these guys but …Wow! this was not the sort of sound I was expecting from three blokes strumming ukuleles!
This was largely because there was little or no traditional uke strumming going on during their fantastically entertaining set. And definitely no leaning on lamp-posts!
These guys have transformed my perception of that humble little instrument forever! Colin has put together a band in the classic lead, rhythm and bass formation – but using ukuleles instead of guitars!
Yes, that’s right, I did say bass! Halfway through their first song I found myself wondering why they had a bass player hidden away somewhere out of sight. But no. It was Colin, stage centre, with a tiny (in bass instrument terms) bass ukulele, who’s 21 inch scale was producing a sound as deep and rich as you’d expect from a full scale bass guitar.
The Rhythm section came in the animated form of Pete McPartland performing on a six stringed uke and sharing lead vocals with Colin.
Their set was varied, lively and highly entertaining, with Pete and Colin ripping through the instrumental solos with the rock ‘n roll style face-offs normally reserved for Quo rockers Parfitt and Rossi. Magic stuff!
And the rock ‘n roll continued …with the gusto and fervor that comes with every Merry Hell performance. The infectious enthusiasm, the rousing melodies and the catchy meaningful lyrics had the whole audience tapping, clapping, singing along and (quite literally) dancing in the aisles.
You never see a glum face at a Merry Hell gig.
The old favourites were there, including the likes of Drunken Serenade, Crooked Man, Baker’s Daughter and Bury Me Naked, and some new favourites too like the title track off the “Ghost in our House” album. There were moments of poignancy, and a sense of outrage even, on their the anti-war song Old Soldier.
Then, at the end of the evening, just before their usual rip-roaring finale, they silenced every tapping foot and touched every heart in the room with the most beautiful a cappella rendition of a brand new Bob Kettle song, Refugee. All six band members took a verse each. How they did it without choking up on the touchingly beautiful sad lyrics is testament to their professionalism.
All in all, a fabulous evening thoroughly enjoyed by the capacity audience who all gave generously to the worthy charitable cause. And it was all down to the organising skills of Virginia Kettle and Colin Maddock.