Stephen Fretwell / Morning Runner - Manchester Ritz - 12.01.06

Morning Runner prowled into the spotlight and shook up relaxed attendees with their brand of downtrodden and ripping indie. Previous single, the pacing ‘Gone Up In Flames’ that has been the soundtrack to Sky TV’s coverage of American football, kicked a vibrant set into the end zone. Roving offering ‘The Great Escape’ provided a bit of calmness and composure to proceedings. Morning Runner, led by Mathew Greener is growing in confidence with each show, as their debut album release creeps ever closer. This helped them to make a connection with the crowd, demonstrating surety and belief that will have been garnered partly from being special guests on Coldplay’s stadium tour last year.

For many this was the first gig of the New Year and it is traditionally a time of forward thinking. This was certainly the case when Stephen Fretwell stepped into view clutching his acoustic guitar; sauntering into a niftily graceful new piece ‘Darling Don’t’ that was the first in a trio of acoustic crackers. A caressing lullaby tone made for a stirring mood early on, with the airing of a first track plucked from his enthralling Magpie album; ‘What’s That You Say Little Girl’. This brought together the sounds of Aqualung and Steve Earle. The set opened out when the full band came into action for the nostalgic ‘Brother’.

The amiable Scunthorpe born and Manchester based performer was in his usual bantering mood; keeping the crowd on their toes between songs with his now familiar deadpan witticisms. Another new offering; ‘Dart’ pierced the topic of love with soulful precision, as moon-eyed gatherers gazed on in awe. This number was probably the most important of the evening, as it has built upon the scything cynicism and boldness of the always received; ‘Emilie’. That second album black hole which swallows many a proud and polished act, most likely, will not claim the deft touch of Stephen Fretwell.

A gripping rendition of the masterful ‘Run’, along with the serenely uplifting; ‘Rose’ set things up beautifully for an acoustic finale featuring a rebellious and defiant ‘New York’. Another enchanting and poignant evening had been successfully completed by a voracious songwriter, who feeds off the vibes and enthusiasm of his followers.

Words: David Adair
Photos: Shirlaine Forrest

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