Love from Stourbridge @ O2 Academy, 14th April 2018

Tonight’s sold out show is a dual headliner featuring The Wonder Stuff and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin both of which made a massive stir on the indie alternative scene back in the late 80s and early 90s. Having not seen either of them play since then, standing in the queue it felt like a trip down memory lane, admittedly they were playing The Hummingbird rather than The Dome. 

The Wonder Stuff are the first band tonight to take to the stage. The early start doesn’t deter the band’s or the audience’s enthusiasm however it did mean that there were a number of fans still waiting to get in and pleading with the band via social media to delay their stage time.

Beginning with Red Berry Joy Town, taken from their debut Eight Legged Groove Machine, the band embrace the positive response and give it their all. With only a simple backdrop of cassettes detailing the tour dates, The Wonder Stuff don’t need to rely on fancy lighting or stage antics to entertain as their brand of indie is more than capable.  The set list of over twenty songs spans the length of their musical history and includes big hitters such as The Size Of A Cow introduced as “It’s time for that one” and the anthemic Golden Green which results in a call and response with the audience.

Despite Miles Hunt being the only original member, the rest of the band heighten the competency and,with the incredibly talented Erica Nockalls on violin, The Wonder Stuff sound is more accomplished if not more folky than they were back in the day. Illustrated when the band exit the stage, leaving long time collaborators Hunt and Nockalls alone to slow the pace down and therefore reduce the need for defibrillators, with a beautiful rendition of Room 512, All The News That’s Fit To Print, that sees many mesmerised. Standing on the balcony, you can appreciate the quality of the mix, as each instrument stands out without dominating and the drumming skill of Tony Arthy enhances each song as well as watch the crowd’s physical responses to the songs. It’s Yer Money I’m After, Baby won the fan vote online and this sees plenty of bouncing and the odd crowd surfer or two followed by the band’s choice of Radio Ass Kiss. An encore of Unbearable and Ten Trenches Deep sees The Wonder Stuff exit to deserved applause and a quick changeover occurs to prepare for headliner number two.

Ned’s Atomic Dustbin have returned with the original lineup and like The Wonder Stuff also manage to belt out a twenty song set spanning their career. However, unlike The Wonder Stuff, the distortion, volume and vocal delay create a far darker and edgier noise. Considering they enter to Jupiter from Holst’s The Planets, Ned’s make it obvious from the start that they intend to cause chaos and Jonn Penney explodes on the stage, leaping around with the energy of a person half his age as they dive into Suave And Suffocated.

Ned’s Atomic Dustbin were never as commercially successful as The a Wonder Stuff, yet, none of the crowd have fallen away and the vigour at the front has increased with a swirling pit being a constant. The use of two basses produces a shuddering vibration throughout the building and makes tracks such as Trust which have a more pop sensibility seem far more sinister and appealing. To add to the well orchestrated melee, the strobe is put to good use and enhances the band’s onstage movement. The vivacious reaction of the crowd spur the band on through the performance as their energy levels don’t appear to waiver and as Cut Up and Happy are unleashed the frenzy reaches new heights. The encore of Kill Your Television and Selfish bring a blistering set to a close and have certainly reignited my interest in Ned’s Atomic Dustbin despite the resounding ringing in my ears. 

Love from Stourbridge was an excellent nostalgic collaboration that gave the audience exactly what they were looking for from both bands. If it were a competition, Ned’s would have been the winners for me purely for the heaviness and salute to My Bloody Valentine with all the distortion and delay yet I am sure there are others out there who would disagree.

Finally, I must thank Richard Sanders whose generosity made my wait at the bar far more enjoyable, you restored my faith! 

Reviewer: Toni Woodward
Photographer: Andy Watson

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