Gig Review by Simon Saynor with Photography by Mark Loraine

The Icicle Works

Early start for this one but Ian McNabb doesn’t mess about when it comes to playing live. The first time I saw him (solo acoustic set) he informed us to phone the babysitter to let them know we’d be late. Tonight the current Icicle Works line up is on stage for 8pm and leave at around 11pm. Even with a 15 minute break that’s serious value for money.

The Icicle Works

The Icicle Works appeared on the scene in the early 80s. Similar time as other anthemic guitar bands such as U2, Simple Minds, Waterboys etc yet somehow they never seemed to get the acclaim these other bands got. It’s an injustice. Ian McNabb should be hailed as one of our finest songwriters, singers and storytellers. He hints at this as he introduces Who Do You Want For Your Love, ‘This got to number 53. Better than the last song. That got to number 54.’Those who follow him on social media will know of his no punches pulled acerbic wit. You get the impression his tongue is firmly placed in his cheek though. More than anyone making music today he knows the fickle nature of the music industry and point blank refuses to play the game. I love him for it.

I also love him for the sheer quality of his output, both with The Icicle Works and as a solo artist. He knows it’s the fans who really matter hence the marathon live shows.

The Icicle Works

We are treated tonight to a 3 hour all eras Icicle Works feast. There are tracks from all 5 studio albums. They walk on stage with people still filtering into the venue and the atmosphere a little subdued. Straight into my favourite song of theirs, When It All Comes Down. It’s joyous. By the end of McNabb’s blistering guitar outro the room is packed and up for it.

It would take far too long to go through the whole set list, 23 songs in total split into two sets. Highlights of set one have to be Seven Horses, the singalongs to Little Girl Lost and Starry Blue Eyed Wonder (we get plenty of audience interaction) and set closer In The Cauldron Of Love.

Another band that have been through a few line up changes but it’s hard to argue against this being their strongest. Roy Corkill is the perfect foil to McNabb. You can see them willing each other to raise it yet another notch. Richard Naiff is a keyboard with an awesome pedigree behind him and is simply pure talent. And Mathew Priest is just an extraordinary drummer. A finer quartet you couldn’t wish to see and they are on fire tonight. The crowd are raucous. It’s epic. I was ready for the 15 minute break 12 songs in. I needed to recharge.

The Icicle WorksThe Icicle Works

As The Dragonfly Flies from their eponymous debut album starts set two and we’re off again. What She Did To My Mind from 1990’s Permanent Damage follows with Ian waxing lyrical about how everyone in 1990 was part of the Baggy and Madchester scene. We even get a snippet of Fools Gold, probably sounding better than The Roses will manage this summer. The finale is mesmerising: Understanding Jane, Love Is A Wonderful Colour and Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream) is a triumvirate of songs that any band would be justifiably proud of. Birds Fly even gets an almost funk drop that is just stunning.

With the sweat dripping from The Leadmill ceiling they’re back for two more: Up Here In The North Of England and Hollow Horse complete with a stage invasion of a chap wearing a horse’s head. Hollow Horse could well be McNabb’s finest ever lyric. ‘We’ll be as we are when all the fools who doubt us fade away’ is so very apt for a band, and a frontman, who refuse to conform yet are quite obviously adored, and rightly so.

The Icicle Works

From start to finish I’ve been smiling, singing and flailing my arms around. Apologies to all those in my vicinity for that but it was impossible not to. I’ve been blessed with some stunning gigs this year but The Icicle Works have just blown them all out the water.

Only downside? I couldn’t get a t-shirt on the way out. (One for Ian’s facebook followers there).

Set List:

When It All Comes Down
 / Perambulator
 / Evangeline
 / Seven Horses / 
Little Girl Lost
 / Rapids / 
Hope Street Rag
 / Blind
 / Starry Blue Eyed Wonder / 
Melanie Still Hurts
 / Shit Creek
 / In The Cauldron Of Love


As The Dragonfly Flies
 / What She Did To My Mind
 / Out Of Season / 
Who Do You Want For Your Love
 / Reaping The Rich Harvest / 
High Time / 
Understanding Jane
 / Love Is A Wonderful Colour / 
Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream)


Up Here In The North Of England / 
Hollow Horse

2 Responses to “The Icicle Works at The Leadmill, Sheffield, UK – 14th May 2016”

  1. Gareth Lane Says:

    Fabulous write up. Was there too. Followed them since they were born. Seen Ian solo and IW circa 20 times and this topped them all! Cheers, Gareth

  2. steve quin Says:

    Brilliant Review of an amazing band, this current line is the best and just got better as the tour went on, i was in Liverpool O2 for them supporting the Wonderstuff, then Sheffield, where i met Gareth Lane (a smashing geezer there with his sun) the Leeds, i have seen Ian and the Icicles in the region of 150 times and have to say that Sheffield and Leeds and the two best gigs i have EVER been to. I was the loony in the Horse’s Head Mask and have now made it on the the stage 3 times with them and hopefully more to come!!!!

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