Then current album: Never Loved Elvis
Opening act: The Milltown Brothers
Back of ticket ad: free popcorn at AMC Theatres, “Bringing Quality & Convenience to the Magic of the Movies!”
Sometimes I do forget how cheap shows could be — and still are, if you know where to look, obviously.
And with this show, a shift from the hyperdetailed stories I’ve been doing to a mix and match approach depending on the show — because I barely remember anything about it at all. Or perhaps I don’t want to remember.
The Wonder Stuff aren’t even a blip on the radar any more outside of a very specific bunch of people at the time and place who like to indulge in their nostalgia — and hey, here I am and all. But at the time, I did pretty much love them a lot — tracks ended up on mixtapes, raved about their virtues to friends, and looked forward to finally seeing them at this show. This album, their third, ended up being their biggest commercial success in the UK, seen as being lead guy Miles Hunt’s move to some sort of reflective and maturer state — and to be fair, based on a number of the lyrics, that was the case. It wasn’t just that they weren’t as snot-nosed any more, but there were elements slipping in around the corners due to lineup changes and different foci and events. The mandolin on “Caught in My Shadow” I now recognize more as the obvious nod to something like “Maggie May” that it is, but it still works in the memory nicely enough.
But memory is the slippery thing that it is. I wouldn’t want to claim that I didn’t go to the show — I have the ticket, there it is — nor do I want to pretend I was above something that I once loved. Yet this is the first show where I run into a brick wall of ‘what exactly was I thinking?’ simply because I seem so removed from it all now.
Not the case with a lot of the shows I’ve discussed so far — some bands remain not merely firm favorites to the present day but near obsessions (as anyone on Facebook or Twitter knows when it came to me spreading the news that Alan Wilder joined Depeche Mode the other night for the first time in sixteen years). And when it comes to the Wonder Stuff’s friends in Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, it’s not like I’m rejecting the whole context the band was known for (certainly not when I’m also still appreciative of the work of another Birmingham area band, Pop Will Eat Itself — also friends with Hunt and the Wonder Stuff, due in part to the groups’ growing out of an initial band effort together in the early eighties).
Instead I could almost trace down the sole lasting impact of being a Wonder Stuff fan to two things — a tour shirt from this show I still have around and my hair. Not that I hadn’t been growing out my hair already at this point but it was in a bit of a state this whole time, and I’m kinda glad there are aren’t many photos around. Hunt’s hair was in a state I envied and eventually set myself to get, at least just by growing it all out properly and letting it flow. Funny thing is that occasionally people will still figure out that this was my role model there long after Hunt had cut his hair short — some character on ILX a while back (who has since fulfilled his destiny by being a toady to Uwe Boll) tried to rile me up by complaining about that fact, though I can’t exactly be offended at something I was trying to achieve in the first place.
And so this show? As I said, I don’t remember much about it. I was near the stage, the Milltown Brothers were engagingly dull (I think their ‘hit’ song as such was called “Which Way Do I Jump?” or something close to it) and the Wonder Stuff were good fun on stage. They were, they threw themselves into it well enough for an enthusiastic crowd, there was a lot of leaping around in the audience if not on stage, at one point Hunt delivered what appeared to be a mocking toast or salute to somebody back in the VIP section, and the performances of “Caught In My Shadow” and “Welcome to the Cheap Seats” still stick with me a bit.
And…that’s it. That’s it and that’s all. Part of this feeling has to be the effect of shifting into the high amount of shows I was starting to attend around now — Pigface had been just a couple of nights beforehand, more were in the offing. There was no sense of crazy anticipation at play that I can recall, there were no specific stories to tell about audience members or people in the crowd. This was ‘just’ a show, and by a band that doesn’t prompt much in the way of reaction from me now. Sometimes, even when an experience was enjoyable, the memory is utterly generic.
Five nights later, though — that was a show I’ll always remember by necessity. But that’ll be tomorrow’s entry.