Review and Photos by Paul Broome
The first issuing on DVD of the classic 1991 live concert video ‘Nothing Is Cool’ (largely filmed at the Civic) is the main reason for tonight’s festivities. Not that you need much of an excuse for a party in Wolverhampton in December. And if I ever need to book the entertainment for the ultimate party then Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and Cud will always be top of my list, and I could do a lot worse than kicking things off with The Frank and Walters too.
Unfortunately due to several over-cautious drivers halting my progress to Wolverhampton I arrive halfway through the Irish trio’s early set, too late to take photos but thankfully still in time to catch some of my favourites, including the eternally chirpy ‘After All’ and set closer the positively anthemic ‘This Is Not A Song’. The Frank and Walters are one of the few indie bands from the early nineties to still be creating new and captivating music in the present day (beyond The Wedding Present I’m struggling to think of another…), recent album Greenwich Mean Time is well worth checking out.
From the second Cud stride on stage and Mike Dunphy jams out the opening funky strut of ‘Purple Love Balloon’ the party ignites. Their set draws heavily from the early independent phase of their back catalogue and most of the favourites get an airing (‘Only (A Prawn In Whitby)’, ‘Slack Time’, ‘Robinson Crusoe’), with the party atmosphere being enhanced as Mat from the Neds is welcomed on stage to join in on ‘Strange Kind of Love’ (possibly the first time Cud have performed with two bassists?). In a turn up for the books Carl’s new, somewhat svelte(r) physique is even greeted with a couple of cries of “You Skinny Bastard”, and I’m glad to see that at least one mighty ‘tache has persisted beyond Movember! This is the second time I’ve seen them this year, and I couldn’t be happier to have them back.
In a nice touch, 6Radio DJ Steve Lamacq, who has been working the decks in between bands, steps up to introduce the headliners – harking back to the Civic Hall gig back in 1991 at which he was present, along with a large portion of the audience, or so it seems. The year of the sudden snow storm, where Mega City Four were in support and where the Neds sold him a still baggy T-shirt that they assured him he’d grow into.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a band look happier to be on stage than Ned’s Atomic Dustbin tonight – Jonn has a hard time wiping the grin off his face in time to start singing opener ‘Aim’ . It really is a wonder to me that they don’t get together and do this more often. But anyway, they’re here tonight and the packed Civic is going to milk it for all it’s worth. Because the band is sticking to the tracklisting of the 1991 live video for the main set we’re treated to a clear run of old- school classics. Most of the Civic is singing along to every word (Mat comments at one point that the audience seems to remember the words “better than the singer does”) and dancing in a way that it looks like many haven’t danced for some time. It’s also a strangely comforting sight to see the number of bodies being dragged over the barrier at the front of the crowd – just like the old days.
But although this gig is in celebration of a 21-year-old event, it is far from being a nostalgia trip, the band sound so good up there on stage it’s hard to believe that their performances these days are few and far between. Back in the day Ned’s were somewhat pigeon-holed by some portions of the music press, and misrepresented by their label – lumped in with other bands that they shared little with except dress sense – something I always felt was unfair and certainly bore no relation to the superb music I heard across their three studio albums (1995’s Brainbloodvolume is one of the most underappreciated albums of the last 20 years in my book) – and on tonight’s evidence this original line-up still has a vitality that far outstrips many of the ‘youngsters’ out there.
It may be a vain hope, but I really wish that both Cud and Ned’s would take a leaf out of The Frank and Walters’ book and see if they could produce anything in the way of new material – talent like that doesn’t disappear overnight, as all three bands have proved tonight on stage.
Later on, as we file out of the building, I’m actually slightly disappointed to not be greeted by three feet of snow because the 2012 Yuletide festivities have truly begun in my heart now, and all of the carols in my head have twin basslines.