I got married in 2000, a lavish ceremony in Las Vegas and a few days celebrating afterwards in that fair city. However, this was all cut short by a day or two because the unthinkable had happened.
The Wonder Stuff had reformed.
That’s how much this band meant to myself and many many others. I somehow had to get to London to welcome them back, having seen them terminate just six years earlier following the release of their fourth studio album Construction For The Modern Idiot.
And that’s why I’m making the slightly shorter trip from Liverpool to Manchester tonight to see them celebrating this record in its 30th year by playing it in its entirety.
It’s a album that is widely regarded as no one’s real favourite Stuffies record, possibly as the benchmark had been set far too high on the classics The Eight Legged Groove Machine, Hup and 1991’s seminal Never Loved Elvis. It has some undoubted high points but just never seemed to capture their audience’s attention, coming just months before the advent of Britpop, it felt a bit grown up for such a previously jaunty combo.
Lead singer and mainstay through all these years, Miles Hunt has in the past expressed his unhappiness with a few of the tracks and there is only one of the original album’s 12 tracks that could be described as a live staple (Top 10 smash ‘On The Ropes’), so there’s the added pre-Xmas dangling carrot of fresh tunes that have hardly been played live before and will, for the most part, never be played again.
Their audience have responded to this and tonight The Ritz is heaving; they seem to have made this their Mancunian base in recent years. 9:00pm rolls around and there’s massive cheers as the band saunter onstage.
They hurl straight into the one of the album’s highlights, the marauding ‘Change Every Lightbulb’, followed by the paedophile-baiting ‘I Wish Them All Dead’ and the nearest thing to a ‘Size Of A Cow’ remake they made, the single that should have been but never was, ‘Cabin Fever’.
Having seen the band now 48 times, and having seen them in their many many iterations over the years, I can honestly say that this line up is the best of them. Pete Howard is ferocious on drums, paired perfectly with Tim Sewell on bass, the guitar duo of Mark Gemini Thwaite and the returning hero Malc Treece, with the Guinness-swilling Miles Hunt and festively sparkling violinist Erica Nockalls up front, Miles in his customary ringmaster role, in control of it all.
He explains to us that it’s the album in full for the first half, followed by an interval and then “all the songs you actually like.”
Rousing singles ‘Hot Love Now’ and ‘Full Of Life’ get the crowd going, before ‘On The Ropes’ sounding as massive as ever, is the first big singalong and mosh pit of the night.
The quirkier second half of the album sees an expansive ‘Your Big Assed Mother’, ‘Swell’ (a track which Hunt has previously treated with disdain, but now declares that it would “have give those Britpop people a run for their money if they’d stayed together and released it”. He then pulls up a chair and is seated for the gorgeous closer ‘Sing The Absurd.’
A trio of album B-sides later and part one of the night is done, and now we have the prospect of a best-of set. This kicks off with ancient B-side ‘Ooh She Said’ and never lets up for the next 50-odd minutes.
An inflatable beach ball appears during ‘Mission Drive’’, which reminds Miles of the massive Walsall stadium gig back in 1991, which warms the hearts of those of us who were there too.
We get the ‘Cow’ song that invented Britpop, and ‘Golden Green’ which invented indie country and western.
They leave the best till later, a frankly astonishing ‘Here Comes Everyone’ which has the whole venue seemingly screaming the title right back at them.
The Ritz’s old spongy dance floor takes a hell of a beating for ‘A Wish Away’ and ‘Give Give Give Me More More More’; there’s nothing here that was written after 1994, which is a shame in a way because their newer material very much stands up, but tonight is all about giving the nostalgic people what they want.
If there’s a 2024 Glastonbury headliner with a better closing encore duo than early single and indie disco stalwart ‘Unbearable’ and live staple ‘Ten Trenches Deep’, then I’m yet to hear it.
They may now be a 12-legged groove machine, but all the parts are in perfect working order. If you’ve fallen out of love with them or worst still, forgotten all about them, then now is the time to get back on board. They are at the absolute peak of their powers, here’s to the next 48.
(Photos: Cheryl Doherty)