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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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King Louis of Liverpool by Matt Jacobson

Mid-afternoon, in a bar, I asked: “Are you Louis Berry from Liverpool?” At that point, the young gentleman, who was waiting for his lunch to be delivered, replied: “Yes mate.” After a shake of the hand and recognition of accents, we chatted about Liverpool’s favourite subjects – music, football and our city. I set off back home, clutching an autograph and delighted to have met Liverpool’s finest – Louis Berry.

There was something slightly different about this meeting; it wasn’t a bar in Duke St, Bold St or Church St. And, it wasn’t in Bootle, Formby, Broad Green or Norris Green. It was a bar in the heart of Nashville.

The holiday to Nashville was actually won by my girlfriend, through a Facebook entry to a Jack Daniels competition. Pretty much everything on this trip was free, including trips to the Jack Daniels factory and an emotional trip to Graceland.

En-route to Nashville, I was slotted and squeezed into a small chair on the aeroplane. I realised, flying fast as lightening mph above the earth, is exactly the same as sitting on the couch travelling at zero mph, you have to make time interesting. And listening to Louis Berry’s music was just the trick as we flew from here to there – only stopping to eat this and that. His music kept my foot tapping and the man in front of me annoyed until landing on the tarmac at Nashville airport. And on the way back to Blighty, still on a high from meeting Louis, the volume went up and the foot tapped louder. The usual fog of doom and gloom that arrives when you return from holiday was redundant. It had been perfect.

The chance meeting was a few weeks after I had watched Louis Berry in Manchester. I travelled with my good friend, Mike Garvey (lead singer of The Boogs). The gig was fast paced and a whirlwind of a set list. It shook the rafters until the rafters conceded defeat; it was pulsating and energetic. Mick and I forgot about time and we missed our train home – “Taxi to Liverpool”, please! The driver’s eyes ‘kerchinged with delight’ but it was worth it.

Originally, I had heard about Louis Berry being named the ‘one to watch’ and in 2015, it was the first time I was able to watch Louis live in the idyllic, leafy Sefton Park. As he launched into the fantastic ‘45′ (“Well I think I would like to play chess with the Devil. Yes I would like to play cards with the Pope”), it all clicked why  his debut EP ‘Rebel’ received Radio 1’s Zane Lowe’s coveted – hottest record in the world today’.

Festival music lovers and I – and to be honest, the actual park – were hit by a force of nature. The set list included ‘Rebel’ and ‘25 Reasons’, both hitting tree branches for six, and my emotions for seven. I watched him return to Sefton Park this year, to finish off the trees. If he doesn’t headline 2018, I’ll be sending in complaints! Although maybe the trees will be relieved…

Louis Berry has acknowledged a diverse range of key influences – Johnny Cash, Sam Cooke and Tupac Shakur. His songs stem from the roots of his life and reach into our lives. Louis on Rebel: “It’s a song in the first person and third person. It’s about my past, and the past and current situations of the people’s lives I grew up with and lived with – friends and family members. People who seemingly have no say in the choices they have to make. They struggle to survive on what little they can afford and sometimes the only way to get what you need is to take it – one way or another. They have questions that need to be answered. Why do ‘they’ have and ‘we’ don’t”? Without proper education and opportunities, where is there to turn?”

Louis Berry is a rock and roll troubadour from the heart, soul and streets of Kirkby- Liverpool. Louis has talked about tough and rough times growing up. He has been open and honest talking about his childhood and he should be applauded for doing so. Louis talks about areas of our city that need help and he’s right!

I’ve spent part of my career working with charities and foundations, looking for funding to help communities. People must not be forgotten. But, as we know, the government likes to forget when it suits. Billions can be found for nonsense here and there, but not for people who need it. Louis talking about community struggles highlights issues and keeps them on radar.

Louis is a shining example of what can be achieved when talent is within. He has a strong resilience; he’s talented, intelligent, ambitious, articulate and funny. Louis is not part of the Liverpool scene, he stands alone. And after being signed up after his first gig – it is obvious he didn’t need the scene. His voice is closer to New Orleans than New Brighton. It’s fresh, raw, rare, raspy, rock and roll with soul. His lyrics are smart, clever, capturing scenes and moments with clarity and imagination; “but you can’t find me, no you won’t find me on time, cos I’m a very lonely rebel with a very revolutionary mind.”

On stage, there’s a confident swagger and a statement of intent – I’m here, you are here, lets enjoy it. Louis is all smiles, interacting with the vibrant crowd that sing along to every word and every verse. He seems to be enjoying every minute and we are too. His band are extremely talented musicians, play real music with no computers or memory sticks. They look solid and push rock and roll to the limits, currently causing a frenzy around Britain and Europe. Playing to sell-out crowds including Koko in Camden.

The set lists include the swirling ‘Nicole’, the rockabilly She Wants Me’ and the heartfelt, beautiful and endearing ‘Restless’ – a song that quickly racked up 1 million streams on Spotify . All great songs with gutsy, gravely vocals that have captured the hearts and accolades from Radio 1 (Huw Stephens, Clara Amfo, Greg James), Radio X, Virgin Radio, Zane Lowe, Annie Mac, NME, VICE, The Guardian and Clash and importantly from his fans.

If you look at Louis’ Twitter page, you see comments from dedicated fans such as: “Louis has a phenomenal voice, he gets better gig by gig; we had Oasis, now we have Louis Berry”. The Boogs’ Mick Garvey recalls: “The first time I saw Louis Berry, he came on and after the first few chords of ‘45′ I was hooked. Raw, but ready to be honed, a rough diamond that will never be cut, he gate crashed my life – he was superb.”

You will also see pictures of Louis spending time with his fans. He understands fandom and makes times for his audience. And there is the street wit, such as the tweet to KLM airlines for losing his luggage: You lost some of my bands instruments in Amsterdam from Norway. Get them sent over to the UK or I’ll pop ya tires.”

Louis has already sold out shows across the UK, supported names such as Sunset Sons and Saint Raymond and played the BBC Introducing stage at One Big Weekend. The journey has only just started for Louis Berry.

I’ve been fortunate to meet Louis a few times and can see the passion, desire and enthusiasm he has for music. Louis is the same off stage as he is on it which is a breath of fresh air in the rock / pop world. Nine gigs in and I’m ready for more. In Nashville I asked Louis to sign my Ryman Auditorium bag. I told him “because one day you will play there” – and I meant it.

Please enjoy his music and go and see him live – just don’t lose his luggage.

Matt Jacobson

Follow the journey of Liverpool’s finest on Twitter @louisberry

And check out his website www.louisberryofficial.com/

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