the wonder stuff

The Wonder Stuff + Ian Prowse, o2 Academy, 16th December 2023

So here we are the last gig of the year, and what more could one wish for than The Wonder Stuff in a hometown hoedown. This year marks thirty years since they released Construction for the Modern Idiot, an album which saw the band at a difficult stage, as they would subsequently split up the following year. It’s been widely documented and discussed since that the inner workings of the groove machine were not well, and leader in chief, Miles Hunt, has said in numerous interviews it was not a happy camp. He’s also said that some of the songs of this time are not favourites, and indeed, since the reformation and various tours since (both solo and as a band) few of the Idiot songs have made it into the set.

The Wonder Stuff

So as this is an anniversary, and as Milo does appear to have mellowed since Covid days, or is it simply he’s in a good place, a full UK tour playing the album in full was booked in. It started in the summer, and the plan was two sets, the first being the Idiot album, and a couple of choice B sides from that period (which some could argue should have made the album cut), and then after a short break or as Milo puts it “I’m off out the back for a fag”, a second set of stormers from all their back catalogue.

The gigs have gone down a storm and three final shows were booked to end the year, Manchester, London and finally Brum.

Opening up tonight, the wonderful Ian Prowse, who has done most of the previous shows. An acoustic set, accompanied on fiddle by Nico and Andy on penny whistle (I think it was) and backing vocals, we were treated to a 40-minute set of delights, and it’s clear the influence he has on Milo’s solo output (who could be seen side stage enjoying the set).

The set highlight was “My name is Dessie Warren” about the injustices suffered by someone simply trying to look after workers, incarcerated as a result. It’s a depressing story of what authorities will do and inflict on others. Ian is touring next year, be sure to go and see and support him.

Then we come to the main act, The Stuffies back home. I’ve seen these guys many times over the last 37 years, but each show it’s like seeing them fresh with new eyes. The Idiot album is, in my opinion, a classic, and “Storm Drain” (“our attempt at a ballad”) is one of the best songs they’ve done. No surprises as to the set, and it’s complimented by three B sides, “I think I must’ve had something really useful to say”, “Burger Standing” and “Hank and John”, which truly is in my top ten of their best songs. It is, on reflection, criminal it didn’t either make the album nor be pushed more as a potential single, but then again, it’s commented that “Hush” was considered and dismissed as a single (due to the interpersonal situation at that time), which is a shame as it’s also a belter.

I have to say the band have really looked like they’ve enjoyed these shows, and maybe, just maybe, they are beginning to appreciate what a great album it is.

The second set is a mixture of their back career, opening with “Red Berry Joy Town”, which is dedicated to Lucinda Cox, a fan who recently passed. Further dedications are made to “Laney and Marie” for “Here Comes Everyone”, and come the chorus there’s a full backing from every voice in the venue. We didn’t get a beach ball during “Mission Drive” (like we did at Manchester- a nod to the Cheap Seats video) but we did get “Dizzy”.

The band recently played at Shiine On, and vowed that they wouldn’t play “Dizzy” again, but this was not the case as London last weekend got it, and so it was fitting Brum did as well. Is this the last time we’ll hear this live?? Time will tell.

“Unbearable “and “Ten Trenches Deep”, close the set, and it truly is one of the gigs of the year for me. Every member of the band looked like they were having a hoot, and maybe, just maybe some of the Idiot songs will get more airings.

Of course, at this time of year we often think of those no longer with us and it seems fitting to mention both Martin Gilks and Rob “The Bass Thing” Jones, but their legacy is in safe hands, and with Mark Gemini Thwaite, if you squint, it’s almost as if The Bass Thing is being channelled through him, and he prowls the edge of the stage singing along to every song. It did give me the shivers at first.
So, what’s next? Well Miles Hunt continues his solo acoustic shows in the New Year, will we get some more Idiot songs?? Time will tell.

God bless the f***ing lot of us

Set one
Change Every Light Bulb
I Wish Them All Dead
Cabin Fever
Hot Love Now!
Ful of Life (Happy Now)
Storm Drain
On The Ropes
Your Big Assed Mother
A Great Drinker
Sing the Absurd
I Think I Must’ve Had Something Really Useful to Say
Burger Standing
Hank and John

Set two
Red Berry Joy Town
No For The Thirteenth Time
Mission Drive
Caught In My Shadow
Size of a Cow
Golden Green
Don’t Let Me Down Gently
Here Comes Everyone
Wish Away
Give Give Give Me More More More

Ten Trenches Deep

Review and iphone photographs Glenn Raybone

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