Review and Images by Jonathan Taylor
To coincide with the release of their ‘Best of’ album which is a collection of the finest offerings from their six top 20 albums, Reverend and the Makers embark on a nine date UK tour.
Tonight’s stop is the O2 Institute in Birmingham which is absolutely crammed with rowdy revellers, all poised for an anthemic masterclass from the unsung heroes of Sheffield.
The venue erupts as the Rev Army take to the stage and with Jon McClure bouncing on the spot like a boxer finding his focus before the first round, the set opens with the title track off their debut album ‘The State of Things’. A high energy slice of storytelling, which demonstrates the outstanding capabilities of McClure’s observational and poetic capabilities. Scar inspired ‘What The Milkman Saw’ is up next, which is a comical tale of excessive breeding, during which the crowd continue to bounce and sing every word back to the stage.
The 22 song set is laced with the prime cuts from their six studio albums and includes new offering ‘Elastic Fantastic’ described by Reverend’s frontman as “a fantasy about killing Donald Trump with a bow & arrow”. This is followed by the uplifting and euphoric masterpiece ‘Out of the Shadows’. A track which confirms that there is not a truer word spoken when front man Jon McClure states that their set is packed with “Banger after Banger”. It’s an absolute gem and the Birmingham crowd are evidently engrossed and continue to bounce with arms aloft in a sea of joyous chaos. The rest of the band leave the stage and McClure, with book in hand, treats the crowd to the poem ‘The Last Resort’, which was on the B side on their debut single which features fellow Yorkshireman John Cooper Clarke, who is clearly a creative influence.
An incredibly emotional rendition of ‘Hard Time for Dreamers’ brings a moment reflection and contemplation. In the present climate of economic and political uncertainty, it is a sad indictment that lyrically this song is as relevant now as it was when it was released a decade ago. The gospel inspired ‘Auld Reekie Blues’, sees guitarists Ed Cosens take to the piano in an impressively accomplished vocal performance and the ‘bangers’ continue with fan favourites ‘Open Your Window’, ‘Shine a Light’ and the wonderfully fuzzy guitar heavy ‘Black Widow’. The venue continues to erupt and the Birmingham crowd catapult themselves to greater levels of beautiful carnage when debut single ‘Heavy Weight Champion of the World’ gets an outing.
The musical journey carries on with the likes of ‘Black Flowers’, ‘MDMAzing’, the excellent ‘Bassline’, ‘Mr Glassalfempty’ and ‘Bandits’. The penultimate offering of the night is knees up scar moment ‘He Said He Loved Me’ and the night is brought to a close with the crowd having one last bounce, chanting in unison to the trumpet of ‘Silence is talking’. In true tradition Jon McClure then grabs his acoustic guitar and leads the crowd out of the venue like the Pied Piper and the musical celebration continues on the side street next to the venue.
Reverend and the Makers are a band who have never rested on their laurels. They have always continued to experiment, evolve and develop musically. The binding force and key ingredient to what makes them so special, has always been the unique lyrical prowess to reflect on life in a way that is so relatable to their audience. As a band they have been largely shunned by mainstream media and receive very little airtime on commercial radio. Regardless, it’s nights like this that prove whole heartedly that when you have a back catalogue of classics and musical gems, the lyrical ability to give these tunes real substance, then you are more than justified to stand on a stage filled with undoubted self-belief and play “Banger after Banger”.