The Engine Rooms, Southampton

the IcicleWorks

The Icicle Works formed in Liverpool around 1980 when bassist Chris Layhe joined forces with 20-year-old Ian McNabb and drummer Chris Sharrock (who went on to play with The Las’s, Robbie Williams, Lightning Seeds, Oasis, Beady Eye and currently is in Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds). The band released four albums with a unique original sound, which some would say musically was ahead of its time. The albums all charted in the UK, along with the single “Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)” which reached number 2 in the UK Indie Charts. The original line-up disbanded in 1988 while Ian McNabb has kept the band’s name alive with a series of various line-ups and a host of solo shows; where he showcased the band’s discography, as well as his extensive solo work.

Tonight Ian arrives in Southampton and promises a long set; the venue has an early curfew of 10pm (due to a Club Night afterwards), so it’s an early start of 7pm to fit everything in. The band this evening comprises of some long term collaborators featuring Roy Corkhill on bass, The Waterboys keyboard maestro Richard Naiff, Christopher Kearney on Guitar/vocals and Nick Kilroe behind the drum kit. Kicking off with the epic “When It All Comes Down” the band all start really strongly, starting with a big tune that is usually saved for the encores. The vast majority of the crowd know this number well and it is great to watch the joy on their faces as the band recreates this in such a great way. It’s even extended at the end with some fantastic twin-guitar improvisation.

The first part of the set is dedicated to the first five albums and the five-piece really put in lots of serious effort getting things just right. The audience is treated to some great in-between song banter from McNabb while he tries to give us the various chart positons that the tracks reached. Despite having a large printed setlist in front of him, he hilariously gets a few of the songs wrong; only to be nudged in the right direction by Roy, which certainly adds to the enjoyment. The highlight of the set has to be “Nirvana”; a full-blown audio assault, where we are treated to a host of various sounds and textures. These include Ian on the Mellotron and some futuristic noises from a theremin as famously used on “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys. Also adding to this is the highly skilled “Dr. Richard Naiff” who like a wizard creates some wonderful sounds from behind his “flight deck” of keys.

The Icicle Works
The Icicle Works 12345678

After a 15 minute break the band is back and Ian has ditched his denim jacket for a Neil Young-style checked shirt. He is a massive fan of “Young” and much of his influence can be seen in his performances. The band play “You Must Be Prepared To Dream”; a tune that came from an album called ‘Head Like a Rock’, one that was recorded with Neil Young’s band “Crazyhorse”; somewhat of a dream come true for Ian. Ian with his Gibson Les Paul Deluxe; complete with Whammy bar and Christopher Kearney on his Gretch really play the song for all it’s worth, much to the delight of the audience. The second half seems a little more relaxed as the band really find their stride and power through a selection of Macnabb’s solo numbers. This includes the adorably chilled ‘You Stone My Soul’, dedicated to the ladies in the house and “Clarabella (Come To The Window)” an epic tune of over 12 minutes.

It’s difficult not to completely immerse yourself in all the material on show here, McNabb has never fully got the recognition he deserves. He is such a great songwriter and very prolific, with a huge amount of quality material available that he puts his absolute all into creating. The few hundred people here tonight certainly appreciate him and as we get to the last couple of numbers, he says to the audience humbly how much he appreciates them too. The set ends with arguably the Icicle Works best-known tunes “Love Is A Wonderful Colour” and “Hollow Horse”, where all of us are invited to join the band with the infectious choruses. The band leave the stage after over two hours of fantastic, well delivered live music; now that’s what I call a great Saturday evening of entertainment!

Set List
When It All Comes Down
Seven Horses
Little Girl Lost
Who Do You Want for Your Love?
Up Here in the North of England
Starry Blue Eyed Wonder
A Factory in the Desert
Out of Season
Melanie Still Hurts
In the Cauldron of Love

Loveless Age
You Must Be Prepared To Dream
You Stone My Soul
Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream)
Clarabella (Come to The Window)
Understanding Jane

Our Future in Space
Love Is a Wonderful Colour
Hollow Horse




Words, Pictures & Videos by David Chinery (Chinners).

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