Wednesday, 27 January 2010

622 THE WONDER STUFF, Voice Of The Beehive, Birmingham NIA Academy, Sunday 7 December 2003

Amazingly, we'd not sorted tickets for this one until the actual day, as Rachel (a massive Stuffies fan) wasn't sure that she wanted to see them in these circumstances, on a dubious "comeback" tour. But then hey, why not? So I booked tix and we hit the road at 5, making easy time and parking up in the quiet NIA Car Park at 6.30. Sorted our ticket collection then got ice cream (!) and took our tiered seats, stage right, about 7. Good view in this huge venue, which was partitioned off halfway down the hall for this nevertheless sell-out show.

Luckily, the billed 3rd act Bentley Rhythm Ace only turned out to be DJs rather than "live", so we put up with their jumping old vinyl until Voice Of The Beehive came on at 8. They struggled with thin sound which ate up their guitar noise, but nevertheless played an energetic set of their sparkling, tuneful and sometimes slightly naughty girly pop. Despite not having listened to my old VOTB vinyl for donkey's years, most of their set was very familiar, as was the sharp-witted banter of the 2 girls. The old Comsat Angels classic "Independence Day", a moody number about, "a nervous breakdown which I can relate to," was for me the set highlight, despite being at odds with the rest of the upbeat poppy set. All the hits; "Don't Call Me Baby", "I Say Nothing" and a breathless romper-stomper through "I Walk The Earth" were chucked into an entertaining 45 minutes!

The place was well packed by now, but luckily our tiered seating afforded us a good view! The Stuffies wasted little time, on promptly at 9.15 and straight into a less familiar number, followed by "Can't Shape Up". Miles, occasionally too flippant for my liking, was in good and generous spirits throughout; the usual, "how the fuck are ya?" greeting was complemented with an explanation of the Stuffies' "lapse" into gigging again, with Miles referring to this tour as their "Gary Glitter Gangshow"!

Musically, they sounded excellent and put on a great show. A little bit of fat in the middle for my liking - their best-known numbers "Size Of A Cow" and "Don't Let me Down, Gently" were dispensed with early, and mid-set consisted of a lot of their fiddly-diddly, student night out sing-along numbers - but I have to say they finished the set superbly. The mature, considered "On The Ropes" - finally given some credit by Miles (it's always been my favourite Stuffies number) - sounded a cut above, then the slightly-delic "A Wish Away", the jolly, chug-along "Unbearable" and set closer "Ten Trenches Deep", all driving drumbeats and grinding guitar riffs, ended things brilliantly.

I also enjoyed Miles' speech about former bassist, the late Rob Jones, wherein he asked the audience to raise a JD and coke to Rob on Feb 14th next, which would have been Rob's 40th birthday. A nice touch.

Encores, mainly from the popular "8 Legged Groove Machine", brought the set up to a 1 3/4 hours of their unique, sassy-gobbed, fiddly-embellished guitar pop. Undoubtedly Rachel got much more out of this gig than I did, judging by her elation on the drive home, but one thing's for sure, we'll be back for another lapse next year!

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