|The Wonder Stuff/Erica Knockalls - Port Talbot, Princess Royal Theatre - 3rd April 2013|
|Written by Dave Prince|
|Thursday, 18 April 2013 03:00|
Now I know what a few of you are already probably thinking, “What the hell are The Wonder Stuff doing on the hallowed pages of the Uber Rock website?” Well for me, this band epitomises the true rock ‘n’ roll DIY spirit that is somewhat lacking in a lot of today’s music. Never backing down from a fight.
So not having played a Welsh date since 1994 (well as The Wonder Stuff anyway), after the cancellation of their last proposed date (Coopers Field, Cardiff back in 2010), the anticipation for the band’s set after an absence of nearly 19 years to the day… was electric.
However there was a support band to get us warmed up first tonight, and the honour of that fell to current The Wonder Stuff violinist Erica Knockalls and her band. As the lights dimmed on the nicely filling theatre, Erica stood centre stage with instrument in hand and proceeded to give everyone in the hall a lesson in how to rock!
Whilst some people were getting to grips with the alternative/electronic sound, that to these ears reminded me of early We’ve Got A Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It, mixed with a little Garbage, the band themselves were a strange looking bunch – the bassist clearly loves L7/Babes in Toyland, the guitarist a disciple of Joan Jett/Donna R (The Donnas) while the drummer played like the love child of Josh Freese and Tommy Lee.
After a quick change over, the excitement at seeing tonight’s headliners was hitting fever pitch, as the lights dimmed and after what seemed like forever (due to technical difficulties with Fuzz Townshend’s kit) the band finally hit the stage and torn in with the ‘Oh No It’s… The Wonder Stuff’ opener ‘Clear Through The Years’ and one thing that Miles and Co. made perfectly clear right from the off was that this was no nostalgia trip and that the band are still relevant in today’s music world as they ever were.
Wasting no time the band ripped straight into ‘On The Ropes’ which being the only song tonight from 1993’s swansong ‘ Construction Of The Modern Idiot’ was perhaps a shame, as I feel that the album is often overlooked by Miles and most of the Stuffie fans. Thankfully it is still a great song and even with more technical problems (with the samples this time), you could not wipe the smile from my face.
Going right back to the start for ‘Red Berry Joy Town’ was a smart move by the band as it gave the crowd what they wanted. Given that this is the first date on the tour and with the odd technical problem aside – it is almost as if the band hasn’t been away. They were on fire tonight and so was Miles with his ever-present smile/sneer on show. His quip that” in 25 years of playing he has never played or opened up a tour in Port Talbot,” almost gave the game away, but there is always a first time for everything. Also his quick wit in responding to someone shouting for ‘Astley In The Noose’ was priceless. My favourite moment though came when Miles stated that during touring he sometimes watches Come Dine With Me in the hotel and that every time they show a lot of food or someone is having beef that they play the ‘Size Of A Cow’ song and that he doesn’t mind, as it’s them paying him. And that he even wrote a song for them on the new record called ‘Friendly Company’ that they can use if they ever needed to.
Delving backwards and forwards from their extensive back catalogue, they ultimately catered for fans of the first three records. Which most bands would die to have such great songs to choose from, myself though I would’ve love something from 2004’s ‘Escape From Rubbish Island’ or 2006’s fantastic ‘Suspended By Stars’ but you can’t please everyone.
Still mixing new songs in with the classics kept me happy and in fact most of the people in attendance, especially when they are the latest single/video 'Oh No' which as Miles said himself “who would want to see himself and Greg Davies in lyrca running around a shopping centre pretending to superheroes?”
Like I mentioned previously the majority of tonight’s set was drawn from the band’s first three albums, but Miles still sings them with a passion not seen for a while. Ushering in the old classics Erica leaves the stage and the band run through the great and the good from ‘HUP’ and ‘The Eight Legged Groove Machine’, and I must mention that ex-PWEI drum man Fuzz and local boy done good Steve Wyatt on guitar, breathe new life into the old songs as they sound fantastic. However the Mark Lamarr swagger of bassist Mark McCarthy with his unwillingness to smile, certainly brought things back down to life. It’s when Erica is on stage that you honestly cannot help but watch her in her bright red top hat and electric dress. Miles himself with his scarf reminded me of Noddy Holder.
Ending the main set with the unbeatable trio of ‘Unbearable’, ‘Who Wants To Be Disco King’ and ‘Poison’ is another move sort of genius. The band quickly leave the stage and in no time return with ‘Can’t Shape Up’, and the ‘From the Midlands With Love…’ reworking of that Brummie classic - Duran Duran’s Planet Earth - but not without Miles saying that “one of One Direction is from Birmingham, so that’s volume two sorted.”
The night for me will always mean many things.
One: Erica is a star in her own right.
Two: Miles still has it.
And Three: Don’t rule The Stuffies out just yet… there is plenty more sneer in the old (new) band yet!