When music is mapped according to its origins, an unexpected hotspot of activity appears on the edge of the ‘Black Country’, courtesy of a few white boys around the late 1980s. Glasgow’s population of Stourbridge’s finest sons swells tonight as a twelve date tour arrives at the O2 ABC. Though The Wonder Stuff may have claimed more column inches over the years, it is Ned’s Atomic Dustbin who most feel the love tonight. The Pop Will Eat Itself part of the story completes the triumvirate on this tour only interstitially via the decks.
‘Neds’, as they will be more efficiently referred to hereafter, bounce onto stage like they’ve never been away. The last time they were in Glasgow, Gareth ‘Rat’ Pring had by his own admission significantly more hair, but the band have certainly lost none of their energy and drive in the many intervening years and clearly enjoy their return to the stage.
John Penney grins infectiously throughout, his live vocal benefitting from the trademark echo effect which added such clout to Neds’ recorded work. This complements the twin bouncing basslines and Pring’s ever shifting power chords.
There follows a rapid onslaught of more classics than you’d think you would recognise. Just when you think they must have played everything … BOOM! there follows another, and with most clocking in around merely three minutes, apathy is off the agenda. Poor man’s Pixies? Stourbridge Stoogies!
Capital Letters, Until You Find Out, Not Sleeping Around – all with barely a pause to the wipe the sweat off their brows. Everyone sings along, it seems, and the moshpit verges on the cusp of civil unrest but thankfully stops short of Penney’s invitation to “let’s start Throwing Things”.
Terminally Groovie tantalisingly extends its pause “So come on…” to climax. “I’ll make love to you ‘til my face turns blue” belts out Penney, though at this stage in the gig most of the audience’s attempts to reciprocate may have resulted in similarly alarming symptoms. The intense heat generated by the crowd prompts Pring to proclaim it “the warmest we’ve ever felt in Scotland!”
A concise encore begins with Kill Your Television and ends with a loop of guitar to take home as tinnitus. To paraphrase one of their biggest hits, Neds “go spare and leave us happy”.
A hard act to follow, then, for the Wonder Stuff, whose set tonight starts, as their first album did with, Red Berry Joy Town. These days they’re more of a ‘Ten Legged Groove Machine’, now including Erica Nockalls on violin whose chemistry with partner Miles Hunts is abundant onstage.
More household hits (than Neds ever had, admittedly) are wheeled out and Golden Green and The Size of a Cow’s choruses are universally echoed back at the stage. Circlesquare still swaggers and On the Ropes punches above its weight. Hunt teases us (and themselves presumably) all being now “of an age where we need to be careful; there aren’t enough defibrillators in the house tonight”. Hence, time to slow things down with his and Nockalls’ acoustic rendition of Room 512.
A prior social media survey was floated to choose a number for tonight’s set and Radio Ass Kiss is aired as the winner. Finally, Give, Give, Give, Me More, More, More segues naturally into a chant for an encore, if not without a little prompting by Hunt.