Probably not since the war years has The Ballroom in Margate’s Dreamland seen a helping of Beans On Toast being offered up but cometh the moment, cometh the man. From Essex (well, Portsmouth the night before, actually), Jay McAllister – otherwise known as Beans On Toast – brought his raucous road show to Kent’s infamous seaside town.
McAllister and his band came to the South East coast as part of Independent Venue Week. In the refurbished Ballroom below The Hall By The Sea Jay played to those from six to sixty-six, so wide was the demographic spread of his adoring audience. Having, like clockwork, released his tenth album in ten years at the back-end of 2018, Beans On Toast was also here as part of his latest tour, ‘A Bird In The Hand’.
Before Jay took to the stage, it was the turn of his touring support Jess Morgan. Jess played through an acoustic set of songs about friends who’d moved to (and subsequently been evicted from) ‘Brooklyn’, her love of Birmingham’s ring-road system on ‘Aston Expressway Kiss Me Quick’, a song “about Whitby, written in Whitby, called ‘Whitby'” as well as a stirring version of ‘All I Want To Do Is Tell You What To Do’. This after telling a photographer not to go round and take a photo from behind: “It’s like being snapped in the changing room”, she quipped.
Beans was joined on stage throughout the night by various band members, and at one point a returning Jess Morgan. He opened with a joyously free and entertaining track taken from his latest album called ‘Good Health & Happiness’. The upbeat song set the tone and the mood for the entire night. Jay chatted and joked in between tracks, regaling us with tales of previous dubiously booked visits to the area courtesy of Deal-based Smugglers Records as well as giving an impassioned speech in high praise of Chas Hodges. “He put Margate on the map, the Beatles played support for Chas And Dave, you should check out their songs”, McAllister said with a determined conviction.
The lightness of touch, humorous asides and the sincerity of the man were true and genuine. When it came to him playing arguably his most well-known track, ‘M.D.M. Amazing’, he was quick to take to task those who may have questioned whether he ever got bored of playing it: “Why would I? Why would I get bored of playing a song that I wrote that people want me to play?” ‘Taylor Swift’ drew wry smiles from the crowd and Jay may even have drawn a few tears from some as he gave his emotional pre-amble to a song about the birth of his daughter entitled ‘Magic’. His love of the NHS and its workers was also suitably well-received on another one of his newer tracks ‘Here At Homerton Hospital’.
‘Harry In A Helicopter’ from 2013’s ‘Giving Everything’ went down well, as did ‘Watching The World Go By’ and ‘Bamboo Toothbrush’, even after Jay explaining that at the previous night’s gig in Portsmouth drummer Dave had given his bamboo toothbrush, “the one that he’d been using to comb his beard all day”, to a 9-year-old girl!. Beans threw it open to the crowd to give him songs to play, at which point he duly had to double-check with band if they knew them and could remember them.
After a brief break, Beans On Toast came back out, this time stage left and proceeded to jump on top of the ballroom’s grand piano. He was joined by two little girls and his pianist to play out the last two tracks of the night. The crowd gathered round and the final sing-a-long ensued for a very well received ‘Life’ and, finally, ‘Down The Pub’.
In a relaxed and casual manner, Beans On Toast made everyone feel at ease and ensured a friendly, warm and entertaining atmosphere was to be had. It wasn’t so much like your run of the mill gig, more like an ‘evening with’ and it was one which the crowd very much seemed to enjoy.