It was a year ago when Stourbridge brought their love to Birmingham in the form of The Wonder Stuff and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin whereas tonight’s line up is Neds plus Pop Will Eat Itself (PWEI) with one night already under their belts. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin arrive on stage to Jupiter by Gustav Holst to provide a grandiose entrance which fades to allow the screeching guitar of Tantrum to take hold. Jonn Penney commits wholeheartedly to the performance as he did nearly 30 years ago, leaping around the stage with the vigour of a teenager, however, he does note at various points during the set that it is far more tiring than it has to be.
The distorted guitar solo by Gareth Pring (Rat) is a welcome common occurrence that resonates throughout the venue and perfectly complements the two basslines that bring the heaviness to the band. Typically the sound under the balcony is muffled so moving to the middle of the venue allows for improved clarity, however, Ned’s haven’t got the weight of sound they had last year considering there are two bass players on stage where I got hit with a depth that was reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine. Besides the lack of volume, when Trust is unleashed, five songs in, the crowd start moving more energetically and this appears to fuel the band as well as being a reminder of what crafted indie song writers they are, using tempo and dynamic changes very effectively. Throughout the set, the strobe is deployed to full effect to enhance the impetuous nature of the music and add drama to Penney’s boundless energy.
Despite his enthusiasm, Penney uses Stuck to take a physical breather but demonstrates how strong his vocal talent to convey emotion whilst maintaining a beautifully melodic line. Rat’s extended guitar solo makes a welcome return to finish Two And Two Make Five bringing a true dissonance to the proceedings which is developed by Capsize, a bloody heavy offering with a more metal riff and drumline, a fantastic piece. Ned’s revert to their indie state with Happy, Grey Cell Green and Intact to complete the main part of their set, unsurprisingly, they return as there are two songs missing. The encore of Kill Your Television and Selfish completes a super hour decent British indie from our local region and prepares the awaiting audience for PWEI.
Pop Will Eat Itself are playing their 1989 album This Is The Day in its entirety and when they enter the stage you realise why Ned ‘s had sounded so light as the heavyweight had been saved for the headliners. The aural onslaught is accompanied by violent strobes as Fuzz Townshend’s precise drumming resonates throughout the Institute whilst Davey Bennett’s bass causes the building to rumble. The industrial Wise Up! Sucker with its catchy refrain sees Crabb and Mary Byker bound about the stage on the odd occasion hitting a bum note during the harmonies but no one seems to care as the audience is lapping up the vibe. Inject Me may have a slower tempo to the songs that have gone ahead however the energy levels fail to dip even with the keyboard riff being slightly too low in the mix considering its prominence in the track. Can U Dig It? the alternative club classic, evidences the frenetic and squealing guitar of Richard March demonstrating how ahead of their time PWEI were. As with Ned’s, age hasn’t hindered Pop Will Eat Itself’s ability to produce a vivacious live performance with each member giving their all whether it be Crabb jumping off the drum rider or Adam Mole throwing his keyboard around.
All of the samples are triggered with complete accuracy and as Def Con One kicks in with its MacDonalds references the movement at the front of the crowd increases further. As the album draws to a close with Wake Up, Time To Die, a more sinister sounding track, you can sense that the audience are wanting more of PWEI than This Is The Day has to offer and a brief exit suggests that the band are going to release some of their other big hits. First up is Ich Bin Run Auslander with its repetitive discordant keyboard chords and wailing vocal samples is a popular choice followed by Get The Girl! Kill The Baddies! By this point Crabb and Byker are getting the audience involved whilst the liveliness onstage reaches new heights to the point where the tech wants in on the action and takes over bass playing duties for the apt cover of The Prodigy’s Their Law which had featured PWEI. Needless to say, this tribute to the sadly departed Keith Flint had the ground floor and most of the balcony bouncing and was a fitting way to close the proceedings.
At the time, I don’t think I fully appreciated what a diverse and impressive selection of bands came out of such a small town but yet again, thanks for the love Stourbridge, Birmingham is very grateful on this Easter Sunday.
Review: Toni Woodward
Photos: Ian Dunn