Cassettes frontman Nick Reeves, wearing his favourite corduroy cowboy shirt, sits cross-legged up front at The Ticket Office: an intimate, convivial setting, with something of the inglenook about it. He has a self-effacing and jocund air which woos his audience from the outset, as he teases with the opening strains of the Beatles’ ‘Yesterday.’
He begins the set with a bold, acappella sweep, using Scritti Politti’s ‘Hegemony’ as a lead-in to the cool, sardonic and lyrically hegemonic ‘Piccolo Knives:’
‘Dollface, have you heard the latest?’ He asks, driving a self-absorbed bore from her perch at the bar. ‘Ow-ow-owww’ indeed!
Next up is ‘Jackdaws and Witches,’ his elegiac ode to Bowie, set in the cold clouds close to the ‘faux Greek temple’ of Penshaw Monument, in nearby Sunderland. From Sunderland, to Berlin or ‘Boleyn…as people call it these days, Boleyn…’
Reeves teases out ‘Postcard from Kreuzberg‘ — inspired (as he explains) by a badly-rendered horn styling of ‘Smoke on the Water’; ‘two punks sitting on a painted wall’ and a tree-full of ghosts. By the end, the song itself has become the eponymous postcard, which is sent to an anonymous recipient, having held the audience in thrall.
The next location on this troubadour’s tour of a legendary landscape is ‘The West Country,’ a Cassettes classic, in which Reeves looks back on an idealistic childhood of Christmas mornings and swimming in the sea, framed not through rose-tinted spectacles, but rather the lens of ‘the perfect alchemist’ who is adept at ‘turning gold back into lead.’
A contrasting epistolary composition to ‘Postcard’ is the heartbreaking lyrical ballad ‘The Table.’ Do not be fooled by the title’s suggestion of quotidian domesticity. This song tells the story of a jilted lover whose words of self-consolation become a consolatory letter to the woman who walked out on him, only to have her heart broken in turn:
They offer balms, they offer ointments for such wounds
but all is fair in Love and War.
Venus and Mars, you know they try to woo the moon
beneath a battlefield of stars.
A stunning and timeless composition.
Another battlefield we visit is Agincourt, in the slow and soulful ‘Loose Lips/Loose Hips.’ In this song, old friends are reunited with a handshake before fading away, but, Reeves assures us, ‘everything will be ok’ if we just ‘keep it easy, read the text!’ He pulls off the yee-haw of an ending with trademark grace and style.
There are audible cheers when Reeves launches into his best-known hit, ‘Receipts.’ A self-contained cautionary tale, in which the teller achieves everything he could wish for, from ‘dating fancy models’ to ‘writing slender novels,’ but only when he sleeps. He hits all the high notes to whoops and rapturous applause from the audience.
Changing the tone entirely, he then begins to fingerpick his guitar, and gives us an altogether more ghostly reworking of ‘Postcard.’ Of course, an encore is demanded, which he duly provides in a strident, triumphant return to ‘Piccolo Knives.’ ‘If corduroy is the cloth of kings’ then the crown, and the night, surely belong to Reeves: a true rock ‘n roll poet.
You can watch the full set on my YouTube Channel.