Mary Lee's Corvette @ The Maze Tavern, Nottingham (04/02/04)

This was my first time seeing Mary Lee's Corvette and also my debut at the Maze Tavern on Mansfield Road, Nottingham. From the back this venue looked tiny and, well, to be honest we thought we'd got the wrong place, or the wrong night. However, we walked around to the front and it was a nice little pub with an amazing rear function room (complete with stage, bar, ample seating!)

Brian Houston played a solid support set. A guy called Jason Slain was also on the bill but he either didn't show up or Brian played for too long? Either way, we didn't see him. To be honest though, I can't imagine anyone topping Brian's spot. I'm normally not too excited about support acts, however this guy was brilliant. Cocky, confident, talented and highly amusing. He was playing on his own (vocals, guitar and harmonica) but joked about having been in a band previously back in Belfast and that one by one all his fellow band members were poached from him until he was a solo performer. Was this true? Who knows? It was a entertaining story nonetheless.

Brian Houston could have just as easily been stand-up comedian for my money, such was his charisma. I'd been thinking of Van Morrison influences whilst watching him and on his final song he stole a melody from Van the Man's "Caravan", complete with timed air-kicking. A nice touch. I wonder whether anyone else other than me appreciated this?

Another amusing incident during Brian's set was him starting a song and playing some chord wrong and then stopping, apologising and re-starting, claiming that the mixing guy was recording the peformance and that there was nothing worse than getting home and listening to your efforts and hearing a bum note at the beginning of a number.

Brian finished about 10pm and Mary Lee's Corvette came pretty much straight on. I'd familiarised myself with their latest album, 700 miles, promoting which, as Mary Lee herself soon confessed, was the reason behind this tour. I'd also heard a few tracks from their notorious cover album of Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. Somehow I'd expected a full band complete with drums and all. As it happens, Mary Lee's Corvette were just two. Mary Lee Kortes on vocals, acoustic guitar and occassional harmonica (she made some joke about female harmonica players and their need to check their lipstick regularly, whilst re-applying lipstick herself) and a guy called Rod on electric guitar (also providing harmony vocals). Due to the venue stage/size, it was probably for the best that my predictions were wrong.

Wow, what a great sonud they made! Mary talked quite a bit inbetween songs which I always like. She seemed very relaxed. They played two Dylan songs ("You're gonna make me lonesome when you go" and "Simple Twist of Fate" with Brian coming back on to help out for this number as an encore) and the rest were from their new album.

Rod, Mary told us, had accidentally acquired the nickname "Broderick Rod" whilst on tour in Spain previously due to an unfortunate language barrier incident.

Mary Lee said that "700 miles" was a song inspired by her late (great?) grandmother who kept a diary throughout her life and would log everything she did no matter how inconsequential. Mary Lee discovered her diaries post-humously and one entry described how she came to stay with Mary Lee one time and recorded that it was 700 miles to Mary Lee's doorstep from hers.

"All the Rage" is one of my favourites tracks. This was also a stand song for the night for me. ML confessed that this song was often thought to be an anti-war song. She seemed generally puzzled by this.

The crowd of about 50 people (made up mostly 50+ year old seemingly - I was possibly the youngest there) were attentive (at one point Mary Lee joked that this was infact scaring her a little bit). We (the crowd) weren't very good at clapping along I felt and any participation was modest in replying to her inbetween song musings.

Mary Lee's Corvette played what felt like a relatively short set. Maybe it was just me. Maybe I just didn't want it to end so soon. After their last song I felt impulsed to shout "more!" but somehow it didn't seem appropriate behaviour in such a civilised and polite club. Thankfully, they came back on for an encore song a couple of minutes later obviously confused by our lack of hunger for more? Mary Lee said upon re-entering the stage something like "normally when people stop clapping [back home], we just just leave". They played Simple Twist of Fate after summoning Brian back over to help them out. I think Mary Lee's Corvette were suitably impressed with the Irish backup, and so they should be!

Mary Lee hung around to talk to people, sign autographs and sell CD's/t-shirts after the show. I congratulated her on a great gig. She was very friendly and surprisingly tall!

All in all, it was a fantastic evening. I'm glad I made the effort to go and I'm glad I persuaded my Dad and his friends to join me. It seemed strange that this band had some all the way from New York City to end up playing a cosy gig to us 50 in a pub in Nottingham. I'm not complaining. On the contrary, it felt very special!

Set List: (I think I got all the songs, although the order may have been slightly different)

Out from under it
700 Miles
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go
Status with Gladys
The Nobody Song
All the Rage
Give it to the Needy
Like Water
Portland, Michigan
Encore: Simple Twist of Fate

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