Engine Rooms, Southampton

The Wonder Stuff

Rock Regeneration’s second trip along the Coast in a week sees us back at one of our favourite venues, the Engine Rooms. Tonight we are here for Indie/Fraggle heroes, the mighty Wonder Stuff. With a new line-up this time around how would they fare? Joining them on this tour are Winsford (Cheshire) trio Déjà Vega. A quick scurry through YouTube earlier in the week and I’m immediately hooked. These guys play a heavily layered take on Indie/Rock with more than a slice of Garage.

Deja Vega
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From the minute they open with latest single “Mr. Powder” it’s earplugs at the ready – these guys are loud! Jack (lead guitar/vox) reminds me of a young JJ Burnell (Stranglers) with both his look and playing style – it’s hard and heavy and it’s a big ballsy opener. Mike (bass) has a look of Bobby Gillespie about him, but the similarities end there. His style is one of remaining statuesque as he only looks up occasionally. Tom (drums) attempts to match Jack for power in the engine room. “No Shalom” follows and it’s much of the same. Big heavy riffage matched to powerhose drumming and a vocal fighting for space within. The first three songs are a tad one dimensional but on “Chasing” I’m reminded of Yorkshire’s (once) finest The Music. The shimmering guitars dual with the brooding bass and they begin to come alive. These aren’t your run of the mill; three minute, radio-friendly epics. These songs are for you to immerse yourself in their wall of sound. On their final song, Jack experiments somewhat with his pedal board, as they give it the big finish. Good applause is afforded them as they leave the stage.

With the venue filling up we wait for the main event. At bang on 9pm The Wonder Stuff arrive on stage. They open in their customary fashion with ‘Mission Drive’ and as they hit the mid-section, a mass of bodies rush to the front – I can see it being a lively show. Tonight’s setlist is entirely curated by Miles and I have to say, would be any fan’s dream setlist. Lots from the first two albums and a smattering from the others. ‘Caught in my Shadow’ follows and like Deja Vega, the Stuffies too are loud. ‘Circlesquare’ is as trippy as ever while ‘Ten Trenches Deep’ gets an early outing tonight. ‘Red Berry Joy Town’ gets people really jumping and with the pit in full flow ‘On The Ropes’ is as frenetic as ever. Miles appears to be in a good mood this evening with his self-deprecating humour a constant source of entertainment. Regulars to these shows will have noticed a distinct line-up re-shuffle, with only Miles and Erica remaining from the previous line-up. On bass they now have Mark Gemini Thwaite of (The Mission/Pete Murphy) fame and on drums the well travelled Pete Howard (The Clash/Eat/Queen Adreena) to name three. And I think everyone in the room will have been pleased to see Malcom Treece back on board.

“Here Comes Everyone” is dedicated to absent friends and gives us brief respite, before Miles encourages a hoedown with “Golden Green”. “Size Of A Cow” doesn’t quite garner the reaction I thought it might but the hoedown; now in full swing, continues through “Welcome To The Cheap Seats”. Two stalwarts from Hup follow with the singalong “Piece Of Sky” and the epic energy-driven “Don’t Let Me Down Gently” before they end the main set with four classics from the first album. “Ruby Horse” is simply a prelude to a euphoric “A Wish Away”, an equally rampant “Unbearable” and to finish off “Give, Give, Give, Me More, More More”. The moshpit now resembles more of a “sweatpit” as the band leave the stage.

The Wonder Stuff
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We don’t have to wait long before they re-appear. It’s a “Hup-heavy” encore and frankly it really doesn’t matter – this is the Stuffies with a new line-up in their rawest form, playing the set of their lives. They resume with “Can’t Shape Up” and “Cartoon Boyfriend” before “Radio Ass Kiss” sees Miles and Malc in fine dual vocal form. “No For The 13th Time” gives us one last chance to go wild before Miles invites us to wind down with “A Song Without An End”. It’s a slow, measured finale to what has been a terrific night in the life of a band who just can’t do a bad show. And this my friends is what is so endearing about The Wonder Stuff – this ability to keep on delivering whether live, or in the studio. Line-up’s change but it’s all about the songs, of which they have many. And long may that continue.

Set Lists
The Wonder Stuff
Mission Drive
Caught in My Shadow
Ten Trenches Deep
Red Berry Joy Town
On the Ropes
Here Comes Everyone
Golden Green
The Size of a Cow
Welcome to the Cheap Seats
Piece of Sky
Don’t Let Me Down Gently
Ruby Horse
A Wish Away
Give, Give, Give Me More, More, More

Can’t Shape Up
Cartoon Boyfriend
Radio Ass Kiss
No For The 13th Time
A Song Without an End

Déjà Vega
Mr. Powder
No Shalom
Who We Are
Eyes of Steel
The Test






Review by Ross A. Ferrone.

Pictures & Videos By David Chinery (Chinners)