02 Bournemouth Academy
A week before Christmas Bournemouth’s O2 plays host to a Midlands “Triple Header” of Indie heaven. Opening proceedings at the unearthly early time of 7pm girly Punk/Pop quintet Fuzzbox are on the graveyard shift. I say that because looking around me there are barely 50 punters in the room. Keeping us entertained this early is a tough ask, but after a nervous start they hit their stride. They open with the seminal “International Rescue” and it all comes flooding back. “Rules and Regulations” follows as they attempt some nervous banter with anyone who cares to respond. Mainstay Vickie (vox) looks resplendent as she moves around the front of the stage. The years have been kind and she has plenty of energy and moves. There’s also a certain chemistry on show with fellow mainstay Maggie (keys/vox). But this is no rehash of old material, they have new songs too. “Let’s Go Supernova” is debuted to this audience and gets a decent reception, yet the classic “Self” still sounds as good as ever. New girls Sarit (bass) and Megan (guitar), along with Hannah (drums) complete this quintet and are every bit as important; as this new look, fleshed out Fuzzbox line-up start to relax more. They end with the big hit “Pink Sunshine” and prove there’s still plenty in the tank. I just wish they had more of a crowd to play to. That said they are well and truly back and for that we should be grateful.
Next up are fellow Brummies Bentley Rhythm Ace who get everyone onside early with their “Big Beat” festy vibes, and their overblown stage prescence. Clearly not taking themselves too seriously they use the stage well and have every prop going in their set-up. Rich’s huge bass is the main ingredient to their sound while one time EMF vocalist James is chief shapeshifter, cajoling this crowd into movement. A smiley face flag is offered to a crowd member before being confiscated by an over-officious member of the security – somehow one can’t imagine this happening at Glasto! They raise the tempo, not least from Fuzz (drums) whose snare is simply huge. Halfway through they play their seminal song “Bentley’s Gonna Sort You Out”/”Unbelievable” (EMF mash-up) which brings back fond memories of that whole mid-90’s Indie/Dance crossover movement. Mike (keys, turntables, programming) can’t stand still, taking every opportunity to come out front and add to the lunacy. His mocking of the photographers by snapping them is simply hilarious, yet he does it so nonchalantly. While BRA have a sound just made for a festival or big arena, they are the perfect warm-up for the main event. They too leave to good applause and thankfully the crowd has grown somewhat.
And so, at approx 9.10 pm it’s time for the main event. One by one The Wonder Stuff take to the stage. Miles (vox/guitar) is last on and launches straight into “Don’t You Ever”. “On The Ropes” follows and this crowd start to move. That now legendary refrain “Hup, Hup, Hup, Hup” greets the intro to “Unbearable” while a few more punters move forward for a mini mosh. Being a 30th Anniversary show it is largely a “best-of” set tonight, which is great. The Wonder Stuff back catalogue is choc full of anthems, most of which are delivered with the usual gusto. One female punter on the front row keeps shouting for rather more obscure tracks – Miles smiles nonchalantly and simply replies “highly unlikely”! He appears to be in a happy mood; smiling throughout, while occasionally engaging with his audience. “Here Comes Everyone” is one big singalong, and you can just feel the love in the room.
“Mission Drive” perfectly precedes a song dedicated to his beloved Birmingham; “Caught In My Shadow”, while last single “For The Broken Hearted” could’ve been written in 1994. Miles encourages us to do the dance moves from the video – however, there seem to be no takers! There follows a 3 or 4 song fiddle section of the set, where Erica (fiddle/b. vox) takes centre stage. Recent single “Good Deeds & Highs” sounds terrific while “Hot Love Now” simply spreads the love in the room even more. With the mellower tracks out the way the band ramp it up for “The Size of a Cow” which really gets the audience singing and dancing as one. “Golden Green” follows and the hoedown begins! “Be Thy Name” is simply a prelude to set highlight “A Wish Away” which is immense; followed by the equally great “Give, Give, Give, Me More, More, More”, as the hits are played one after the other, before they depart on ‘Ten Trenches Deep’.
After leaving to great applause they swiftly return with popular cover, The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment”. Another huge singalong ensues. “Circlesquare” is as psychedelic as ever tonight, changing the vibe somewhat-cue some artistic yet curious shapeshifting among the crowd! “Full of Life” (Happy Now) gets a mash-up tonight with Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga” no less! Miles is in full flow now and clearly enjoying himself. They end what has been a monumentally great gig on none other than “Good Night Though”, which is extended to allow each band member to depart the stage on a solo. Once again The Wonder Stuff don’t disappoint-I just wish they had a bigger audience to witness such a good show. It would appear they don’t seem ready to hang up their instruments just yet though and long may that continue. Tonight was a night of Brummie Indie heaven and I for one hope it’s not the last we see of The Wonder Stuff around these parts.
Don’t You Ever
On the Ropes
Radio Ass Kiss
Here Comes Everyone
Caught in My Shadow
For the Broken Hearted
Room 512, All the News That’s Fit to Print
Good Deeds & Highs
Hot Love Now!
The Size of a Cow
Be Thy Name
A Wish Away
Ten Trenches Deep
That’s Entertainment (The Jam cover)
Full of Life (Happy Now) + Radio Ga Ga
Good Night Though
Words Ross A. Ferrone
Pictures and Videos by David Chinery (Chinners)