Review: Beans on Toast @ Gorilla, Manchester

On the evening of Valentine’s Day, Beans on Toast unashamedly championed the holiday by spreading love with his infectious – albeit ironic – musical optimism at Gorilla in Manchester.

Despite being named after his cynically titled new album, The Inevitable Train Wreck, the show proved itself to be far from a wreck of any sorts.

Beans – real name Jay McAllister – managed to seamlessly marry together astute political commentary with catchy upbeat tunes to create an unoffensive yet intelligent performance.

His 11th album differs from his usual stripped-back folk style, adopting an upbeat, old-school rock ‘n’ roll beat. Turning his attention outwards towards the world, the recent songs showcase an apocalyptic outlook of our future.

At first glance, Beans’ new material offers some quiet gloomy social commentary on prominent issues such as war, Brexit and climate change. His performance did not shy away from this either, as the gig abruptly began with him singling acapella ‘there is always money for war.’

Given such provocative subject matters it was surprising to experience the uplifting and positively joyous atmosphere created from the offset by Beans and his band (Kitty and Lewis). The choice to adopt an upbeat, rock ‘n’ roll style automatically injected life and joy into the performance, making the songs all the more relevant and affecting.

It quickly became apparent that the overriding core to his performance and songs were rooted in love. Love for his country, in spite of his disappointment in Brexit, championed in his song England, I Love you.

And love for his wife, Lizzy Bee, who he dedicated a trilogy of love songs to. As well as a genuine love for Manchester, and the crowd who gathered at Gorilla to see him.

Although love was in the air, Beans’ simplistic yet refreshingly honest lyrics prevented the evening from feeling contrived or cringe. Witty and graphic, Beans expressed himself with ease and confidence regally splicing in fond anecdotes of past performances in Gorilla.

In one anecdote he recalled of a couple getting engaged at his last gig in Manchester. To his surprise the same, now married couple, were in the audience and were brought up on stage to dance.

Through his simplistic reflections on life, the musician reminded us of the beauty to be found in the familiarity of our everyday lives. Ultimately the gig was a celebration of life that we can all rally behind. Summed up perfectly in these lyrics from On & On: “Life is ridiculous, it is hilarious, it can be dangerous and sometimes even tedious. But it’s resilient and it is beautiful and I believe in it. Long may it continue.”

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