Meilyr Jones – Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff – 11th / 12th February 2016
I don’t know much about how to recognise a work of art but I know what I like. I like Meilyr Jones very much.
It’s 2pm on a bright Thursday afternoon in February and Meilyr is playing a low-key afternoon piano gig in Stwidio Seligman at the excellent Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff.
A film of the single “How To Recognise A Work Of Art” plays on a white screen in an art studio setting.
In one corner, an installation of what looks like part of a 1950s bedroom with pinups and magazines and a Dansette record player with Elvis Presley’s Golden Hits on the turntable.
Next to this, part of a dressing-room with Meilyr’s red costume from the video draped carelessly over the rail.
The piano is in one corner with a white sheet over it. Next to it, a selection of one-of-a-kind sleeves for the single designed by artists There will be 100 limited handmade 7″ sleeves to go with the single of the song by the artists Ruth Jen Evans, Pato Bosich and Gavan Lee along with different events during the week. on sale for £25-£30 a pop. Or you can if you wish design your own sleeve – crayons are provided – and take away the single for £8.
This could definitely be a Work of Art.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Meilyr Jones’ proper band gig the following evening as part of the From Now On festival. There’s one heck of a lineup this evening with Meilyr’s set in the Stwidio sandwiched between the excellent Laura J Martin and headliner Julia Holter in the adjoining Theatre.
In a superb dramatic opening, the band amble onto the stage, take their positions and without so much as a “hello”, Meilyr’s right foot comes crashing down and we’re straight into “How To Recognise A Work Of Art”, the current single with its yelping, strangled, angelic vocal over a Motown beat.
This isn’t the last time the stage will take a pounding from Meilyr’s size nines.
I remember reading that when the The Beatles used to play the Star Club in Hamburg there was a competition between them and Rory Storm & The Hurricanes to see who could break the stage with repeated foot-pounding.
Meilyr seems intent on wrecking the Stwidio’s makeshift raised stage, although as the artist in residence at the Chapter Arts Centre he’d probably cop some flak if that happened. Or maybe they’d be tolerant of their resident genius and figure it’s just a stage he’s going through.
The band is flawlessly tight and well-drilled. Bass player Emma Smith resorts to sax and violin and keyboard player Rich Jones plays a viola (his primary instrument) for a couple of songs, so we are basically listening to a string quartet with drums. Current single “Featured Artist” is a highlight.
Musically there are hints of Dexys Midnight Runners, Talking Heads, The Beatles (specifically Paul), Prefab Sprout, Noughties singer-songwriter Jeremy Warmsley, Deep Purple (oh yes!) and David Bowie (of course)
I don’t know if its just that the man is still upmost in all our thoughts but there’s more than merely musical Bowie reference points in Meilyr Jones – the art, the desire to provide something a little bit different, the theatrical stage moves, the high-waisted trousers, even the surname…
… and then as if to prove the point the band break into the riff from “Rebel Rebel”.
The album is out in a couple of weeks. Even having only heard about half of it live, I reckon it’s already a candidate for album of the year.
Meilyr Jones is touring the UK in April and May stopping off at Ramsgate, London, Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow, Wrexham, Cardiff again and a few festervals in the summer. Go see him while its still relatively cheap.
A few days later I’m still buzzing from this gig. I keep going back to one particularly fine theatrical touch where he takes a vinyl LP from its sleeve, smashes it to pieces and flings them, mock-petulantly, into the audience.
The album was “Elvis Presley’s Golden Hits”. I know cos I retrieved a piece of it. I’m hoping it will be worth a fortune by association in about ten years’ time when Meilyr is justly famous world-wide.
THAT’S how you recognise a work of art.