This gig came a little bit out of the blue. I’d posted a Tweet name checking Miles Hunt’s handle expressing my disappointment of not attending the gig. He replied asking why I wasn’t reviewing, and from that, Miles himself sorted me out with a guest list. What a legend, eh?
Date: December 17, 2012
Venue: The Venue, Derby
“We weren’t going to play this one as it splits our audience in half”, explains the Stuffies leading man Miles Hunt, before almost apologetically announcing the arrival of early 90s classic, Size of a Cow. Sounding more upbeat he chirps: “But it appeared on ‘Come Dine with Me’ so, kerching!”
Miles and his band are on good form. Yes, they’ve been drinking, but you sense it’s not the booze that’s galvanised their mood but rather the fact that the band are back together for the first time in aeons, dipping into their vast lake of brilliance and picking out the big fish with the precision of an indie-folk heron, and playing them as they should be played. That is with gusto, vitality and with an air of pride.
They exude a confidence beset with zeal, especially as this reunion gig (oh and there’s that much-maligned term, ‘reunion’…) gathers pace midway through, when the early songs forge a moshpit for the first time. Those songs, in particular Caught In My Shadow, Circle Square, Don’t Let Me Down Gently and A Wish Away, give those old enough in the crowd who remember them from the first time around something to bounce around to. It’s not that the likes of Size of a Cow and Welcome To The Cheapseats are met with apathy, it’s just tonight’s audience have more of a connection, a vested interest, a retrospective simpatico if you like, with those earlier tracks, as they emit a voltaic buzz so stimulating and tangible it sucks you right in.
Miles has even turned back the years by looking exactly as he did during the band’s heyday back in those halcyon days of late 80s, early 90s post-Baggie acerbic neo-indie, with his curly, shoulder length mane flapping around his face. Gone is the slicked-back Richard Hawley-meets-Vic Reeves look from a few years back when he toured alone. It’s as if the thinking was that if he was going to resurrect these songs, the look had to match them.
Erica Nockalls’ look, however, seems to suggest ‘Future Pixie’. As she masterfully cavorts with her violin, dressed in a pink, frilly dress with a stylish peroxide barnet, she’s like the punk-folk Rihanna; the Ceilidh Pink. Her contribution to the set is essential. It just wouldn’t work without her glissades on her instrument, even if she does take a break during what she terms as “boy’s music” during those rousing guitarscapes of the afore-mentioned party starters.
Talking of ceilidhs, Golden Green is a Gaelic-licked jamboree of (Black) Country music fun which unites the audience in a singalong hoe-down akin to the climax of an Irish wedding.
Elsewhere, stemming from Miles’s memories of a Solihull disco way back when, we get a rendition of Duran Duran’s Planet Earth in the encore. Unsurprisingly, the inherent electronic aspect of the song has been ripped out and replaced with a charged, sweaty energy conjured by pulsating guitars and Erica’s fervent string histrionics.
If you’ve been reading this wondering whether or not they played Dizzy, the answer is no, they didn’t, as Miles explains that even had they wanted to revisit a song which you sense they now regret dallying with, they “couldn’t afford him (Vic Reeves)”, so that particular playful, cloying cartoon moment of their history is left to gather dust in their archive.
If you assumed The Wonder Stuff had become a band that time forgot, and who simply plodded along for the hell of it, you are grossly mistaken. They’re every bit as good as the band they always were, even perhaps more honed and skilled at their game as we approach 2013 – 27 years since their formation. There may be a few more miles on their collective clocks, but this was still wonderful stuff.