Photo Credit: Paul Grace
I honestly can’t begin to explain the value for money feeling I got going to this gig. Two Stourbridge legends, reanimated live from the same swampy depths of the same crap-drenched charts of the near-endlessly disappointing early ‘90s? Yes please.
I saw the Neds once before – Brixton, November 2012. They opened alongside Cud for Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, and the vibe here tonight is much the same. Them laff-a-minute indie bands without one iota of a toss to give, playing loud, playing fast and managing somehow, to be devilishly witty in their lyrics, as well as borderline violent toward their instruments. It’s the Brummie musical equivalent of a Molotov cocktail and I’m absolutely into it.
The Wonder Stuff take the stage first tonight – after a fun (but pretty questionable) DJ set from Pop Will Eat Itself’s Graham Crabb – and they’re absolutely electric. Deploying their biggest hits at random intervals, Miles Hunt works the crowd with charming self-vindication, and even welcomes out-of-key booing for their now infamous (and tonight, unplayed) Vic Reeves-starring novelty hit cover-song. Relative newcomers Erica Nockalls and Dan Donnelly add sparky flourishes of violin and lead guitar theatrics, respectively, bringing with them a dishevelled half-steampunk clothing aesthetic that somehow mashes in with the whole bit-folksy, bit-rocky Wonder Stuff thing really quite nicely.
The Neds are up next and do exactly as you’d expect – which is to play at such a volume as to almost shut the joint down. Two bassists, no guitar switcheroos and all the volume. To boot, they’re totally savage onstage – bounding up and down, Jonn Penney looks and sounds nothing even remotely close to his age. The band behind him tears through a throbbing discography of hits, including (but not limited to) Grey Cell Green, Happy and (naturally), Kill Your Television, which – after the pretence of an encore – tears through the Academy. Unbelievably, their vitality seems untarnished by time and their tunes as enduring – it’s like being in a time machine or something.
These two bands – and associated acts from the time – are always touring, teaming up and putting together collaborative shows, events and releases. Reforming after years of hiatus from peaks that saw them cultivate already quite small (but devoted) fanbases, both the Wonder Stuff and Ned’s… are incredibly homely acts. If nothing else, go and check them out purely for the honesty and conscientiousness of their craft… and certainly if you ever see their names on the same poster like tonight.