Gig Review:Seven Summers – Hideaways, Chelmsford

Sometimes you wait ages for a number 11 bus and then two come along at once. Sometimes you wait five years for a band, then you get two in the space of a fortnight. Recently Matt Cardle fans were treated to a new band line up of Paul Bullen on keyboards, Phil Donnelly on bass, Tom Peters on drums and Ali McMillan on percussion, to give recent album, Time To Be Alive, the full band treatment. The pairing of Peters and McMillan were particularly effective in giving the show some oomph, and Matt had clearly spent some time practicing extra guitar solos. The shows at The Apex in a Bury St Edmonds and The Stables In Milton Keynes were a trial run of what a future band tour might sound like.

A week later, almost 9 years to the day since Matt beat One Direction and Rebecca Ferguson to the X Factor title in the programme’s most watched series ever, his pre-XF indie band, Seven Summers, reformed and tested the waters as a functioning unit again. The band were inadvertently disbanded when Matt’s X Factor adventure began and the members went their own ways as Matt’s career as a solo artist progressed. Three albums followed in quick succession before something of a hiatus occurred.

Since then, Matt has ventured down a number of different avenues and perfected a form of precision singing that has made him a polished performer. When 80s legend Trevor Horn needed a top notch singer to do justice to his impressive back catalogue, Matt was his man. When Musical Theatre directors need a performer who can stand up to the scrutiny of that most intimidating of audiences, the theatre goer who hates a stunt casting, Matt proved a note perfect and hard to criticise choice. Sometimes having so many options can lead to muddied waters and clashes of opportunity, as happened this year when two West End shows, a Trevor Horn Tour and Matt’s own shows crashed together in a most frustrating way leading to some events being jettisoned. Adding in Seven Summers may seem like an unnecessary extra ingredient in the pot, but this unfinished business could well turn out to be the cherry on the top.

Matt has worked with a plethora of song writers over the years, but few partners have created as reliable an output as fellow Seven Summers songwriter Neillo, who looked every inch the grungy low slung guitar player. The songs were written in a time of innocence before the “airplay-and-Spotify-must-have” criteria needed to be considered and yet feel incredibly fresh, catchy and full of impact. It was therefore no surprise that the comeback show in Chelmsford had a level of energy and lack of inhibition that rocked the house and looked like the most monumental amount of fun. It’s tough to pick a stand out song, with Flesh Not Stone, Paved Paradise, Picture Of You and encore Dirt all being among my very favourite of songs, and new track Without You sounding like a cracker as well. It’s more that Matt sang with passion rather than pin point accuracy, belted out the big notes rather than managing the asset and drew screams and shouts rather than admiring applause.

Quite how four different paths can be tied together to make Seven Summers a thing is a quandary. Drummer Alex Baker is often abroad as a drum tech for the mighty Keane amongst others, yet alone Matt’s range of talents and another two lives of the sort that people in their mid 30s have built. But everyone present will be desperately hoping it wasn’t an event that was just for a day.

Thanks to @GentlyWeeping @loll8736 @_sararusso and @ru_ank for videos and photos.

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