Review by Linda M Patterson, photos by Laura Patterson
After an absence of 23 years, 80s rockers Then Jerico returned to Nottingham on a very rainy Tuesday night. On their last visit, at the peak of their fame, they played to a sell out crowd at the Royal Concert Hall but this time as they hit the stage at the Rescue Rooms. The venue might have been smaller but the band was still perfectly formed.
Before the main act, singer songwriter Mike Marlin strolled onto the stage, startling a still sparse audience with a powerful sound that belied his laid back demeanour. He seemed a strange choice of support act, but the bearded rocker was politely acknowledged by the audience as he ran through his catalogue of songs. A talented band provided a solid canvas for Marlin to draw on, but, unfortunately, he was hampered by extremely poor sound production which distorted the vocals to the point of indecipherability.
The room had grown significantly fuller by the time Then Jerico came on to thunderous applause, but the crowd still had plenty of room to jump around – and they certainly did. As charismatic front man Mark Shaw bounded onto the stage to the opening bars of ‘Helpless’ it was hard to believe that, barring a short tour last year, over two decades had passed since they last played in public together.
There was a self-assurance and confidence about the band as they performed tracks from both of their albums and it was clear from the outset just how much they were enjoying being back on stage and playing together.
At the peak of their success in the late 80s the pop media focused inevitably on lead singer Shaw with his model good looks and flamboyant attitude but this time around it was clear they were all equals – this was a solid band.
The original line up were back together to replicate their unique sound, with the laconic Jasper Stainthorpe on bass and Scott Taylor and Rob Downes on guitar. Only drummer Steve Wren was missing, detained at his home in Australia by a family illness. Shaw was enthusiastic about name checking everyone involved with the modesty of a man who knows that fame has a downside as well.
One of the standout tracks of the night was ‘The Motive’, from debut album ‘First (The Sound of Music)’, which sounded as fresh and relevant as when it was first released in 1987. Hearing songs like this, it’s hard to understand why Then Jerico became one of the ‘forgotten’ bands of their era whilst many of their much less talented peers are still widely remembered.
The anthemic ‘Sugarbox’ and ‘Darkest Hour’ showcased the power and versatility of Shaw’s voice proving that some things really do get better with age. ‘The Big Area’, their biggest single success, inevitably received the loudest reaction of the night and it didn’t disappoint with guitar work any rocker now or then would have been proud of.
For a man who has had his share of troubles, including breaking both ankles so badly he had to use a walking stick, Shaw flew around the stage for two hours, like a man possessed – at times actually physically bouncing off the walls. His joy at being on the stage and performing these songs was palpable and more than once you felt that it might just tip him over the edge into the welcoming arms of his public.
The crowd was a perfect depiction of the 80s Then Jerico fan base, as the rocker boys who followed them from the first album and the teenage pop girls who fell in love with the band during ‘The Big Area’ period – all a little older but joined in a shared love of their music.
When Shaw leapt from the stage during the encore and strolled through the crowd, each group greeted him like an old friend that they were ecstatic to see again – a far cry from the audiences 25 years ago, when he would have been lucky to escape in one piece.
The band looked and sounded better – almost like a super charged version of their former selves. I certainly wouldn’t bet against them being bigger this time around, but if they aren’t then you get the feeling it’s not really that important – the end game this time is simply the music.
See more of Laura’s photos here;