The Wonder Stuff take the stage. Miles Hunt smiling as ever, wearing a black shirt with a red necktie, guitar slung just about as low as possible, with violinist Erica Nockalls wearing a stunning red dress. Bassist Mick McCarthy looks a little more subdued, as do the duo of newcomers to The Wonder Stuff line up – Stevie Wyatt (Lead Guitar) and Fuzz Townshend (Drums), but the whole band soon warms up and it gets pretty lively – on stage and off – with some typical moshing-madness in the front rows.
It was 27 years ago this week that The Wonder Stuff formed, back in Stourbridge, Birmingham. Since then they’ve recorded several studio albums and toured extensively. Band members have come and gone over the years, with two founding members, Rob Jones and Martin Gilks, tragically dying.
The latest line up change is due to the departure of lead guitarist Malcolm Treece, who called time on his relationship with the band after the 21st anniversary tour of their HUP album. Whatever the reason for his departure it left a big hole to fill. Any gig where a band has been together for over 25 years is going to be made up of a large amount of hits from their back catalogue plus a few new tracks and covers. Anyone coming into the band to replace a founding member is going to have to spend 75% of their time playing someone else’s songs, with only a small opportunity to create new music, but if you’re joining The Wonder Stuff at least you have some great songs to play.
Treece will have poured his heart and soul into those songs, every riff, every note. For someone stepping into play his part it must at least be a little odd. This transition for the band will have been made a little easier since Treece’s replacement is Stevie Wyatt, the band’s long-standing sound engineer. But what about the fans? Personally (as a guitarist myself) I loved Treece’s distinctive guitar sound. Wyatt’s different choice of guitars does make for a different sound. But even if I noticed, I’ve got to say that few, if any, of the rest of the audience did!
I don’t want this review to be overtaken by line up change news (which isn’t exactly news any more as it happened a couple of years ago) but Fuzz Townshend steps in as the new drummer – joining from long-time affiliated band, Pop Will Eat Itself.
The band opened with title track from their new album – ‘Oh No!’ It’s a good start followed up by old gig favourites ‘On The Ropes’, ‘Red Berry Joy Town’ and ‘Here Comes Everyone’. A great start!
Next up are two more likable new tracks, ‘Unknown’ and ‘Friendly Company’ before the crowd goes crazy for uber-crowd pleaser ‘The Size Of A Cow’.
Hunt intersperses the tracks with friendly chatter and anecdotes. At one point he perhaps jokingly considers diverging from the set list playing a few chords from some older, less well known, tracks such as ‘Wonderful Day’ noting that they’re so old that he “Can’t remember them” and in acknowledging that he has new band members says “If I can’t remember them, these fuckers have got no chance!” Indeed the new members have done well to nail down almost 30 tracks for the gigs to enable to band to sound as tight as ever.
There were also a couple of tracks from HUP that I was less familiar with such as “Piece Of Sky” and “Can’t Shape Up” clearly added to the regular set list since the anniversary tour, but certainly welcome additions.
Back-to-back hits “Don’t Let Me Down Gently”, “A Wish Away”, “Unbearable”, Who Wants To Be The Disco King?” and “Poison” all lead up to the encore break. Before the band finish up in style with “Give Give Give Me More More More” and “Ten Trenches Deep”
One song missing from the set that’s always been a firm favourite of mine and a track that does feature on their ‘best of’ album is ‘Ruby Horse’, but this is more than adequately replaced by some of the other tracks I’d not heard live before.
Set List: Oh No! / On The Ropes / Red Berry Joy Town / Here Comes Everyone / Unknown / Friendly Company / Golden Green / The Size Of A Cow / Caught In My Shadow / Mission Drive / Circlesquare / Donation / Piece Of Sky / Don’t Let Me Down Gently / Wish You Were Here / Unbearable / Who Wants To Be The Disco King? / Poison.
Encore: Can’t Shape Up / Planet Earth / Give Give Give Me More More More / Ten Trenches Deep.
A great gig, loads of fast and furious tracks, appreciative fans, The Wonder Stuff are still an awesome band to experience live. If you want to catch them on your there are plenty more dates and they are no doubt at a location near to you…