Review + Photography by John Hayhurst

The Wonder Stuff – 30 Years in the Bathroom and HUP is played in full along with Eight Legged Groove Machine.

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“Cos I’ve been 30 Good Years in the Bathroom, Baby” the opening salvo from ‘HUP’ and as it is indeed 30 years since that album was unleashed by The Wonder Stuff, we celebrate in style at Leeds O2 Academy tonight. These nostalgia filled album tours are working well for the post punk/indie crowds, whether it is 20, 25 or 30 years who cares? The chance to see a seminal album that you listened to over and over in your late teens or twenties is well worth shelling out the 30-odd quid for a ticket. Tonight, we get a bargain 2 for the price of 1 as The Stuffies are also going to play their first album ‘The Eight-Legged Groove Machine’ in full as well. Apparently, they forgot to properly tour that one when it was its 30th Anniversary, hence it is going to be a long setlist as they also want to get some new stuff on the table first from their latest release ‘Better Being Lucky’.

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First though, the effervescent Jim Bob from Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine runs through some classics on an acoustic guitar. Looking more like a game show host than a folk punk electro dance poet (– I made all that up) he breezes in and plays ‘Only Living Boy In New Cross’, ‘A Prince In A Pauper’s Grave’, ‘Billy Smart’s Circus’, ‘After The Watershed’, ‘Anytime Anyplace Anywhere’ ,’Midnight On The Murder Mile’ and to top it all off – ‘Sheriff Fatman’. Folks down the front are pogoing along, it’s not quite the same as a full band, but a nice intro all the same. For those who didn’t realise who he was, they had a wakeup call when they recognised ‘Sheriff Fatman’ at the end, and with that it went dark very quickly, and Miles Hunt stepped into the spotlight to introduce each member of the band on stage.

It’s going to be a long night so Miles gives the running order as; a few tracks from the new album, short break, HUP and Eight Legged Groove Machine in full. No time for additional tracks, so those coming to hear ‘Size of a Cow’ or ‘Dizzy’ will be bitterly disappointed ( – they don’t do ‘Dizzy’ live anyway). However, you will be entertained! That cutting wit from Miles Hunt, the glint in his eye and that cheeky dimpled smirk is in full flow tonight.

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The new tunes are immense and sit perfectly well as a progressive step for their 9th Studio album ‘Better Being Lucky’. Opener ‘Feet To The Flames’ is a catchy number which could well have been on any of their later albums and features Erica Nockalls on violin, Erica throughout the night provides the ‘beauty’ to Miles ‘beast’, but they do seriously complement each other, and The Wonder Stuff are just not the same without her soaring stretches on strings.

‘Lay Down Your Cards’, ‘No Thieves Among Us’, ‘Don’t Anyone Dare Give A Damn’ and ‘When All This Is Over’ complete this 1st section and it feels a little premature to be having a break after only 5 songs. Five very fine tunes I might add, however, HUP is my favourite Stuffies album, I can still remember purchasing it on CD, as it was probably the first that I owned, having only bought the machine back in the Summer of ’89. So, the anticipation building is titanic, and I can’t wait to hear the opening strains of track 1 (30 yrs) plus ‘Radio Ass Kiss’ immediately after.

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Sweat pouring down after that double and that’s when Miles realises that we are all a little older and gives us a warning about peaking too early, “Nothing worse than seeing a load of old fat bald blokes knackered after 5 songs, there is a looong way to go folks”. We ignore it of course but I’m quite thankful for ‘Them Big Oak Trees’ being a slower dance number.

“Here’s one from when we invented country music” Mr Hunt quips as Erica fiddles majestically through ‘Golden Green’ and Miles adds the “Hup… Hup… Hup Hup Hup” part. It is all glorious and perfect but also the most obscure of all of their records.

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‘Piece of Sky’ sounds better than ever and then of course we are into the run in to ‘Don’t Let Me Down Gently’ and ‘Can’t Shape Up’ – the two tracks that ensure we are now a mass of sweaty bald blokes that peaked too early.

Surely there will be a break though between the full albums – No! As it is a club night, the curfew is 10pm, so we motor through ‘Eight Legged Groove Machine’ at 78rpm. ‘Good Night Though’ was reserved for the encore (It was on HUP but not part of the album set).

It was the more obscure tracks that won it for me tonight, like ‘The Animals and Me’, those records that are not played live every tour, so you make the most of them when they are, I just hope we are all still around in another 10 years to do it all again, except next time we will probably be in the cheap seats!

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SETLIST:

Feet to the Flames, Lay Down Your Cards, No Thieves Among Us, Don’t Anyone Dare Give a Damn, When All of This Is Over.

HUP: 30 Years in the Bathroom, Radio Ass Kiss, Them Big Oak Trees, Golden Green, Cartoon Boyfriend, Unfaithful, Piece of Sky, Let’s Be Other People, Don’t Let Me Down Gently, Can’t Shape Up, Room 410.

EIGHT LEGGED GROOVE MACHINE: Red Berry Joy Town, No for the 13th Time, It’s Yer Money I’m After Baby, Rue the Day, Give Give Give Me More More More, Like a Merry Go Round, The Animals and Me, A Wish Away, Grin, Mother and I, Some Sad Someone, Ruby Horse, Unbearable, Poison ENCORE: Good Night Though

LISTENING: ‘Hup’ – released Oct 2nd 1989

WATCHING: ‘The Animals & Me’ from this very gig! https://youtu.be/pyBgJSru7kg

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