Live review

Ian McNabb
Concorde 2, Brighton : 21.10.2002

If I ever thought that one day I'd be in this position, saying these things about this man, maybe I would have paid more attention at school. For while I was braving the elements and sleeping on stations to see Mötley Crüe in the big smoke, most of my friends were dragging themselves up to the little smoke (Liverpool) which was just around the corner to see bands like The Teardrop Explodes, Aztec Camera and The Icicle Works . . . all of whom I had no time for.
    Comes around goes around, huh? The last time I saw McNabb was about nine years ago on the Merseybeast tour. I went because Island records were paying and he'd put out a great single in Don't Put Your Spell On Me. We did a great interview before the show; talking about stuff like Soundgarden, grunge, Liverpool . . . anyway, my opinion of a man I once thought of as a 'pretend rock star' changed slowly - both during the interview and the show - to one of a begrudging respect.

Nearly ten years on and I'm just about ready to eat every bad word I ever said about The Icicle Works - but that was what I thought at the time, so I'm not gonna cry about it!
    Now here we are in Brighton; both of us seemingly a million miles away from home turf, but both willing to take whatever comes our way.

Kicking off with a brief acoustic set of old and new material - from what seems like both another lifetime and the current one - McNabb should be assuring himself a position as one of the greatest singer/songwriters the UK has ever seen.
    Love Is A Wonderful Colour makes a welcome appearance, but surely the highlight of this set, the new album and maybe even his career is the brilliant Ain't No Way to Behave; a wonderful rock ballad in the purest sense of the word delivered with a single keyboard. Eat your heart out Ian McCulloch.
    The set is bolstered by dipping into the career catalogue and it works well enough to go home satisfied there and then. Kind of like the opening sequence of Stallone's Cliffhanger . . .

Now I've been to some loud gigs in my time - White Zombie, Motorhead, Crüe . . . you name it, it was loud. Although Zombie still win hands down for actually moving me across a sticky floor by the use of noise alone, this may come a close second (either that or I'm getting old). But it's not just the volume. For a bunch of guys who you could mistake for roadies, this is one of the most powerful and together rock acts I've ever seen. When McNabb rocks out, he may well be possessed by the ghost of Hendrix himself. Did I stand with mouth open catching flies? Yes, once or twice.
    Evangeline, Understanding Jane, Fever, What She Did To My Mind and an absolutely shit-kicking version of Merseybeast all present and correct and delivered with the conviction of the devil himself. The band hammered out a barrage of numbers for close on two and a half hours without dropping a beat.
    Around halfway through, it strikes me that McNabb is enjoying this. A lot. He's having fun and has nothing to prove to anyone. The man just wants to have a good time and sell some CDs dammit. Striking poses for the (presumably) local press and fans alike, this is a far cry from the heady days of 1984 - and that suits both of us down to the ground.
    Culminating with a stunning rendition of All Along The Watchtower, this, quite frankly, is what rock was always about and sadly, isn't very often anymore.

One man with a dream and the talent to pull it off. There are many in the current rock community who could learn a lot from a show like this. I'm a bit at a loss for words to describe this without going over the top, but hey, I got no reason to suck up to anyone. I laid my cards on the table at the beginning.
    Truly awesome, and as fine a display of kicking ass that I could ever hope to see.

:: Sion Smith

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