Being a lifelong fan of the band, it took me all of 4 nanoseconds to agree to a pair of press passes to pop up to Bristol to catch The Wonder Stuff on their 30th anniversary tour. I chanced my arm and got in touch with their management and imagine my surprise when Miles Hunt agreed to meet us before the show to impart some wisdom upon us and generally shoot the shit about the new album, the last 30 years (in the bathroom baby) and looking forward to getting old (disgracefully) with his fellow Brummy sidekick Vic Reeves. You can read the entire interview transcript HERE.
We were invited along to watch the first support band (The Lottery Winners) soundcheck and it was in the main room that I saw Simon Efemey (Producer and Sound Engineer), Chris Holding (Tour Manager), David Gedge (frontman of The Wedding Present), Digby Cleaver (Super Roadie extraordinaire) and Gerry Bryant (Bass player of Mega City Four) all watching the band, talk about the dream team! After a few minutes of watching them check all the drums and instruments, we decamped to a lovely pub outside the O2 Academy called ‘The Hatchet’, seemed nice enough on the inside, not sure if it would be my first choice for a nice intimate first date though!
We re-entered the venue just after 7pm and saw that the Lancashire based 4 piece The Lottery Winners were halfway through their first track, these triple bills always have a habit of starting early but this was REALLY early, it was great to see that so many had made a special effort to catch them play. They wowed the audience with their catchy blend of indie-pop, their songs full of indie jangle-ness, bursting at the seams with catchy hooks and some anthemic choruses which really impressed the fast filling room.
Highlights from their set (which was WAY too short) included ‘Elizabeth’ which really did it for me with it’s summery guitar riff and splendid lyrics. ‘I Know’ allowed the audience to take part in a bit of karaoke, involving the chorus ‘I Only End Up Falling Down For You’ resonating throughout the Bristol O2 Academy whilst the band stood back and watched it all unfold.
Towards the end of the set, the singer went on a 200mph rant, I caught something about "merchandise being available in the foyer" and that "we’ll never be famous if nobody buys anything". Their combination of witty banter, amazing vocal harmonies and light jangle-tastic tunes really made me want more of these guys and I will be heading to Soundcloud to get my fix very shortly!
After a brief break and some equipment removal, the lights dimmed and the drummer from The Wedding present took to the stage and kicked up a beat, after a couple of bars, the bass player joined him and started playing, the guitarist followed shortly after, eventually, David Gedge took to the stage and completed the ensemble, The Wedding Present party could now officially begin!
I love TWP and to see them in such intimate surroundings was a rare treat as they tend only to appear at larger festivals these days, what came next blew me away and kept me glued to the spot for the next 45 minutes. Most support acts play maybe 6-8 tracks, not TWP, they went all out and played an amazing 15 tracks in their allotted time, yes folks, 15 and nearly all of them were absolute belters! From the opening ‘You Should Always Keep in Touch With Your Friends’, they took the room on a roller coaster tour with hits from their 1987 classic album ‘George Best’, right through to a few brand new numbers that aren’t even released yet.
By the time they kicked into ‘Kennedy’, I thought I had died and gone to heaven, TWP were one of the bands that really got me into the ‘indie’ guitar music scene and and to see David up on stage giving that guitar a damned good thrashing just completed the moment perfectly!
Midway through the set, the pit kicked up a gear and there was much activity, the fans rucking like there was no tomorrow, the problem here was that the average age of the punters in the stalls was around 50 and we all know that they’d never be able to keep up that level throughout the set, luckily for them, Gedge mixed up the lively with the more laid back to allow them some time to regain their breath!
‘Dalliance’ was one of the highlights of the set for me, I love ‘Sea Monsters’, along with ‘Bizarro’ I think it has to be up there as one of the strongest albums ever released. This was followed by ‘Blue Eyes’ and the set closed with ‘Brassneck’ from their legendary ‘Bizarro’ album, even I couldn’t keep still whilst stood on the balcony!
They were one of John Peel’s favourite bands and after seeing them live, performing what was for me one of their best ever sets, I can fully understand Peel’s love for the band that started out in Leeds way back in 1985, after many changes in the bands lineup, it’s great to see that after 30 years, Gedge is still producing the goods…..long may he continue!
You Should Always Keep in Touch With Your Friends - George Best (1987)
Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now? - George Best (1987)
Kennedy - Bizarro (1989)
56 - Unreleased
Corduroy - Sea Monsters (1991)
Click Click - Watusi (1994)
Rachel - Unreleased
Skin Diving - Saturnalia (1996)
Interstate 5 - Take Fountain (2005)
My Favourite Dress - George Best (1987)
Broken Bow - Unreleased
Dalliance - Sea Monsters (1991)
Mystery Date - Valentina (2012)
Blue Eyes - Hit Parade 1 (2003)
Brassneck - Bizarro (1989)
After another break and a chance for Digby Cleaver and co to shuffle the stage about a bit, the lights dimmed and the room was filled with a montage of tracks from various tracks throughout their career, mixed in with sound clips from TV appearances and snippets of radio DJ’s such as the late great John Peel. The band took to the stage and the place erupted, Miles looking dapper in a loose white shirt and black strides, completing his outfit with a pair of combat boots, looking every bit the frontman of a band that have earned the right to stand on that stage in front of a room full of adoring fans and do what they’ve done so well for the past 30 years!
With a confident ‘Oy Oy Bristol’ Miles counted the band into their opening track ’30 Years’. Erica joined them midway through the track to grace us with her exquisite violin skills, retaining her icy presence and poise throughout the set.
It was during ‘Here Comes Everyone’ that the crowd movement started to pick up a little, I was more than happy to be watching the set from the balcony, having been in many a Wonder Stuff mosh pit over the past 28 years, I decided it was my time to spectate for a change! The band did such a great job of providing the killer backing track for Miles to croon over. Dan Donnelly and Mark McCarthy doing a sterling job of providing the guitar and bass duties.
A sea of bald headed middle aged males led the charge on the floor during the opening bars of ‘Red Berry Joy Town, taking the mayhem levels up to least a 6. As the song ended, Miles announced that ‘We’ve been friends for 30 fucking years’, to think, that’s over 3/4 of my life, god I’m getting old!
It was at this stage when Miles uttered the words that nobody wants to hear at an anniversary show, ‘We’ve got a new song for you’…..up went the boos from the floor, Miles said that it was only fair that they play at least one song from the new album and with that, launched into one of the strongest tracks from the new album ‘For the Broken Hearted’, this was really well received and I can’t wait for everyone to hear the rest of the new material.
It was during tracks such as ‘Cirlesquare’ and ‘Ruby Horse’ that you saw just how talented the drummer Tony Arthy really is, these tracks are very demanding on a drummer and he sailed through them with ease, proving his worth amongst this lineup of super talented musicians that were sharing the stage with their ringleader.
Miles dedicated ‘Welcome to the Cheap Seats’ to Rob Jones aka The Bass Thing, Martin Gilks and Kirstie McColl, the stage being flooded in a strobe light as he took to a megaphone in-between wailing sirens to finish the song.
Erica exited the stage and left the boys to perform a medley of ‘Don’t Let me Down’, ‘A Wish Away’, ‘Radio Ass Kiss’, ‘Unbearable’ and ‘Give Give Give’, the audience on the floor looking like they were going to drop after things reached a healthy mayhem factor 7! One poor soul did feint and had to be assisted out of the pit by the ever helpful security team who were quickly at the scene to ensure that he was safe and managed to recover side of stage.
Erica joined them once again for the last track of ‘Act 1’ performing a twisted and deranged violin solo on ‘Ten Trenches Deep’ which fitted the track perfectly.
After a short break where water was handed out to the front row (it’s been a while since I’ve seen that happen!) the band took to the stage once more and Miles spoke about how everyone had to put up with him being a ‘pitiful cunt’ for all those years and after a quick count in, launched into ‘Can’t Shape Up’ which sent the crowd into overdrive once again, by the looks of things, they were flagging quickly, it was getting late and as most had been at it all night, I wasn’t surprised to see the energy levels sapping quickly!
After a magnificent version of ’Cartoon Boyfriend’ and ‘It’s Yer Money’, it looked like it was time to wrap things up, staying true to form, the band launched into ‘Good Night Though’ which saw each band member leave the stage to rapturous applause, Miles left after blowing kisses to the audience, followed soon after by Erica, then Dan, Mark and finally Tony.
As the house lights rose and the piped music kicked in, I had a moment to myself to reflect over the past 30 years, had it REALLY been that long? To think that Miles is still at after all these years later, riding the rock n’ roll roller coaster, the ups and downs of being in a band, losing close friends over the years but gaining so many new fans along the way, it must have been one hell of a journey, one that I hope will continue until the tartan blanket and Danimac one day come calling…..what a night, what a night indeed!
30 Years in the Bathroom
Here Comes Everyone
On the Ropes
Red Berry Joy Town
Caught in my Shadow
For the Broken Hearted
The Size of a Cow
Welcome to the Cheap Seats
Be Thy Name
Don’t Let me Down (Gently)
A Wish Away
Radio Ass Kiss
Give, Give, Give, Me More, More, More
Ten Trenches Deep
Can’t Shape Up
It’s Yer Money I’m After Baby
Good Night Though
Words Steve Muscutt
Photography by Julian Baird - www.julianbaird.com