N*E*R*D @ Birmingham Academy – 19th August 2008


Stupendous is not a word I use every day. In fact, if I’m honest, I can’t ever remember using it. But damn it, I’m determined to throw it into the review of N*E*R*D‘s phenomenal gig at the Birmingham Academy last night.

Not being a huge fan of N*E*R*D, and not expecting to write a review I approached the gig with little trepidation and didn’t really know what to expect. One dreaded text later from the head honcho at Brumlive.com which read “C Unit cannot get in! It’s up to you to write the review” and I was thrown thoroughly into the deep end without my trusty notepad and pen! Eeek.

Fear not I said. “As long as I’m armed with a plethora of adjectives and a cornucopia of nouns then I’ll be fine”.


What becomes apparent very early on when N*E*R*D literally hit the stage, is that you’re not at a gig. Oh, no, N*E*R*D are holding a party, and you are cordially invited. All of you! Whether you like it or not, you’re gonna enjoy it.

With their two drummers and crew of front men sporting Pharrell’s own Billionaires Boys Club and Ice Cream attire, they launched into their high octane, rocket fuelled set with the mightily impressive ‘Anti Matter’ and then literally bounced into the stomping ‘Brains’ and fans fave ‘Rock Star’.

It quickly becomes clear that – one half of production duo Neptunes – Pharrell Williams is very much the Colonel of this band. It’s his band. He’s in charge. His fellow rappers are his captains and his hordes of adoring fans are his foot soldiers. General Williams marshals his troops from the front line, directing their every move, whilst his hordes of loyal foot soldiers offer the ‘Star track’ salute in unison in return.

“We’ve had to give this song a different name for political reasons” crowed Williams, “but tonight we’re going to attribute it with it’s real name” as he launches into ‘Spaz’ with the assistance of Chester French, the rather splendid support act who had now joined him on stage. He and his folly then proceed to ‘spaz out’ for the duration of the tune. Splendid.


The energy within the venue was electric. You find yourself in a state somewhere between a hypnotic trance and jumping up and down like a pneumatic drill. I defy anybody to just stand and watch a N*E*R*D gig. It’s simply not possible.

For the finale, Pharrell turned up the lights and then selected 20 fine Brummy fillies to join him on stage to assist with ‘Everyone Nose’ and a glorious rendition of the White Stripes ‘Seven Nation Army’. It was a joy to see so many women clamber over a photo opportunity and a cheeky smooch with their heroes. That Pharrell, he’s not daft.


The only negative point of this gloriously impressive set was the slightly self indulgent jazz interlude half way through which lasted a good (well moderately average) 15 minutes. No need for it General Williams.

With that being the only blot on the mightily impressive landscape there’s only one descriptive word to conclude the review which will aptly portrays the N*E*R*D gig….. You’ve guessed it — Stupendous!


Review – Zak Edwards
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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