Almost 45 years ago, to the day, outraged folk fans booed throughout Bob Dylan’s performance at the Newport Folk Festival. Allegedly, the crowd were a little miffed that Bob had dared go all electric and spoil their folky fun. Tonight, about 3,000 miles east, just 70 people were privy to the debut of Brit-folkers, Matthew and The Atlas having a go at plugging it in.

The first signing to Communion (co-founded by Mumford & Sons’, Ben Lovett) Matthew and The Atlas master twee, traditional English folk, with the gritty, old wordiness, down on yer luck, US country-blues. Let’s not forget the addition of the leader of the pack, Matthew Hegarty. His raw, deep and striking vocals make the band a cut above their home-grown, mainstream, folk contemporaries. Just don’t call it new-folk, or I’ll smack you over the head with an accordion.

Tonight’s Manchester gig is the first night of the band’s 2-date mini-tour. After a long lull of live performances, Hegarty returns tonight with a brand-new line up, complete with electric-operated instruments, a far cry from the banjo flicking band their loyal, global fan base has grown to love over the years.
This evening marks my first live musical outing at The Castle’s self-dubbed “music hall”. It’s one of the most intimate, unique gigs you’ll probably ever experience in Manchester.

I’m glad the weather’s dropped a few degrees as the sold-out space is a tightly packed affair. If the guy at the side of me wasn’t friends with me before, he certainly is now. It’s so tiny and the crowd’s that attentive, at least one person lets out a massive tut each time the door opens to let someone in.

Tonight, Matthew is minus the accordionist, the female singer and he’s done away with the banjo player. With no introductions, Matthew and the Atlas get straight into an old favourite ‘Deadwood.’ With deep thuds from the drum, this is the first introduction of tonight’s re-worked, developed sound.

Classics ‘To The North’ and ‘Within The Rose’ have cultivated a richer sound and depth. Amid the change in arrangement and noise, Hegarty’s unmistakable vocals are crisp and clear in delivery; it’s hard to believe that this one of the first times this current four-piece has played live together.

Before he cracks on with ‘I Will Remain’ from their 2010 EP To The North, Matthew warns the crowd that there’s “no stomping or clapping” in this slower rendition. The execution is much less thigh slapping than the standard version. This is a grown-up hoedown.

In between tracks, the band play a gorgeous ambient soundtrack to Hegarty’s changing  of instruments and re-tunes; this way the gig feels like one, big song.

The set’s peppered with new tracks; ‘Memory Of You’ is beautifully performed as the drums take a backseat to let the story-telling vocals and gentle harmonies shine through. The sublime instrumental introduction to ‘Everything That Dies’ rises in time to a march-like rhythm, ending in crescendo of synchronised vocals and big sounds. The band fit this venue perfectly. ‘Pale Sun Rose’ is the only time the banjo is let out tonight and audience absolutely lap it up.

‘Old Ceremony’ makes me start to imagine how ace this would all sound with a string section. Wow, just throw a whole orchestra at it. Although, here in The Castle this evening, they’d have to throw open the door and shove them in the toilet; with the limited space in here, it just wouldn’t be feasible and there’s probably some health and safety issues involved too, never mind a hefty risk assessment.

With just two EP’s under their belt, the band’s debut album is released later this year. If tonight’s anything to go by, I’m looking forward to hearing what else this Matthew and The Atlas have up their sleeve.

The band finish their 11-song set, the crowd’s response to their fresh and evolved sound is fantastically welcoming. Matthew looks elated, sweaty and mighty relieved. Perhaps he’d heard before-hand about the Mancunian crowd’s reaction to Bob Dylan’s new electric vibe when he played down the road at The Free Trade Hall in ’66.

The Freewheelin’ Matthew and The Atlas is no more and it’s bloody superb.


Co-founder, Producer and Presenter of the weekly Silent Radio show. Part of the Silent family since 2010.Over 10 years experience of working with national, award-winning youth charities and in the creative industries. She’s the former Deputy Director of, Europe’s leading promoter of emerging creative talent. Here she helped secure new creatives secure massive media exposure (BBC R1, 1Xtra…), showcases at mega impressive locations (Downing Street, V&A...) and kudos from the best in the business (Brian Eno, Boiler Room, Peter Saville…).She also flies the flag for women in the media as Director of Manchester’s independent music website Silent Radio and co-Founder, Exec Producer and Presenter of the Silent Radio show on MCR.Live; Further radio includes BBC 5Live, BBC Radio Manchester, plus the odd bit of TV Production Management with international broadcast credits (BBC, ZDF / Arte, Smithsonian…), she also dabbles with playing records to people and her first podcast is currently in pre-production.Bestest gigs: Pulp, Sheffield Arena, ’12 | Micah P Hinson, Sheffield Lantern Theatre, ’12 | Dream Themes, Manchester Star & Garter, ’14 | Patrick Watson, Manchester Gorilla, ’15 | Less Than Jake, Nottingham Rock City, ‘01 | Frightened Rabbit, Manchester Deaf Institute, ’12 | The Decemberists, Manchester Academy, ‘11 | Passion Pit, Manchester Academy 2, ‘09 | Iron and Wine, The Ritz, Manchester, ‘08 | The Verve (with Beck), Wigan Haigh Hall, ‘98 | Take That, Manchester Eastlands Stadium, ‘11 |Worst gig: Fall Out Boy, Manchester Roadhouse ’05 (subject to change)