Their first ‘Farewell Tour’, and a pop quiz to boot…
Date: December 9, 2009
Venue: Rock City
On the surface of it, another Shed Seven re-union tour, sorry, ‘nostalgic re-grouping’, looks like all the other cash-ins which have been as widespread as swine flu in 2009.
But as you look closely at Rick Witter’s frothing exuberance, and listen intently to the still wondrous chimes of their post-Smithsian shtick, you see the vital difference between this comeback and that of the countless and vacuous others witnessed this year.
Two years ago Shed Seven came to Rock City on a tour which seemed contrived, forced, and lacking in purpose. They plodded through their supreme back catalogue as if they were simply filling an obligation, choking the songs rather than letting them soar proudly like they deserve to.
But since then, whatever grievances they may have had – because something was definitely wrong on that night – they’ve put them aside and returned again looking like a band who actually want to be here; they’re tight, refined, and the songs sound amazing.
The adulation that greets them is overwhelming. And although Rock City isn’t quite a sell-out, the place is a buzzing Mecca of reminiscing 90s obsessives, dodgy old Brit-pop haircuts, swollen 30-something beer guts and fake tales of risqué misadventure set in the halcyon days of the mid nineties.
Dolphin is first out of the blocks, and from then on it’s a weighty cavalcade of hits. On Standby, Bully Boy, Where Have You Been Tonight?, Disco Down, She Left Me On Friday et al, and of course crowd favourite Getting Better, which prompts the biggest surge in the crowd and, somewhat ironically, a lights failure! They are all scientifically quantifiable pop hits which transform the crowd into mess of tangled Brit-mop haircuts and flat ale.
Rick Witter is on good form, too, prancing around the stage adopting the pouting simian pose so common of the era they emerged from.
He also wants to play games with us. “How many times have we played here?” he asks. “And what about U2 and Busted, how many times have they been here?”.
The game stems from the band’s afternoon flick through the Rock City annals, a vast tome which chronicles every band that have ever played at the venue, documenting the number of times they’ve played there and on what date. He seemed surprised that this was their eighth appearance.
He then leaves us with a cliffhanger: ‘Which band have played here more times than any other?’. “Hawkwind!”. “Motorhead”. “S Club Seven”. These are just some of the shouts. But like Witter, I’ll reveal all later…
But Witter’s banter with the crowd is indicative of how much they’re enjoying themselves these days. And it’s an enjoyment shared by the throng, particularly when the band’s indie trinity is aired. Ocean Pie, Going For Gold and Chasing Rainbows are three songs which typify epic 90s indie. Ocean Pie is glorious, Going For Gold is a majestic, chest-beating anthem, while Chasing Rainbows – which suitably ends the gig – makes neck hairs tingle with glee.
Literally everyone in the room is belting the words back at them. Hands are held aloft in unison, and pockets of grown men embrace each other whole-heartedly in tear-inducing moments of rapture. Seriously, it’s a proper goosebumps moment.
The thing about watching Shed Seven in 2009, as we close a decade in which they barely belong to, is that although it feels nostalgic and so far from the glitzy, synthy zeitgeist it’s akin to listening to Vera Lynn, it just feels so right.
Hit after magnificent hit, amazing forgotten album track after amazing forgotten album track flitter by leaving fans open-mouthed and happily scanning their memories for the last time they heard them.
Who’d have thought Mark and Speakeasy – the latter last heard being blasphemously and unceremoniously bastardized on a mobile phone advert – would sound so fresh as we approach 2010, considering that both songs were minor indie flecks on a burgeoning sub-scene back in the early 90s?
As comebacks go, this was a corker. Will they be back for a 9th time next year? With Spear of Destiny’s record number of Rock City appearances (did you guess correctly?) to surpass, Witter might not be able to resist.