Review: The Wonder Stuff / Ned's Atomic Dustbin @ O2 Academy

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Bristol got a taste of Stourbridge as The Wonder Stuff and Ned's Atomic Dustbin took to the stage at the O2 Academy as part of their co-headline tour.

Both bands helped put Stourbridge on the indie-rock music scene in the late 80s and 90s. The Wonder Stuff’s successful albums include the Eight Legged Groove Machine and Hup. They have been making music since 1986, took a break in 1994, and reformed in 2000. Their hit songs include ‘Don’t Let Me Down Gently’ (Hup, 1989) and 'Dizzy’ (I Will Cure You, 1991) which was a real crowd pleaser. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin set the Indie Scene alight in 1990 with God Fodder and the later, ‘Kill Your Television’ and ‘Happy’.

The support act came in the form of Graham Crabb, who performed an eclectic and surprisingly entertaining DJ set. His skills were questionable; it seemed the majority of his set consisted of using cross-fade between songs, something my brother resorted to as a fourteen year old, wannabe DJ. However, his enthusiasm and dance moves cannot be faulted, and his long grey hair and dark sunnies only added to the vibe.

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Before the tour, Miles Hunt questioned whether their fans, now getting on a bit, would still have the stamina for two bands in one night. He didn’t need to worry. There wasn’t a moment of the gig that the crowd weren’t dancing and singing along (which the copious amounts of beer being consumed surely helped with). The floor was a sea of goatees and mohawks, each line from Miles producing a wave. Dressed in all black, Hunt was effortlessly cool; he clearly hasn’t lost his youthful enthusiasm and charm.

I was at the bar when ‘Size of a Cow’ came on, from Never Loved Elvis (1991). The crowd immediately exploded, and a man next to me started to dance and sing so energetically that he spilt his drink in the process. ‘Okay, now we’re gonna play some from The Groove Machine’ says Miles Hunt, clearly expecting a reaction, which he got. This being the only album I knew, I was excited to hear some familiar tunes such as ‘It’s Yer Money I’m After Baby’. This got the crowd going straight away, as the band’s intense zeal diffused into the audience.

The Wonder Stuff’s appearance was applaudable; they looked co-ordinated and vibrant. Erica Nockalls wore a black corset dress, and a large, sparkly heart shaped necklace, giving off strong goth vibes. This completely, but effectively, contrasted with the delicate violin she was holding up to her chin. Her playing was undeniably excellent, and her soaring notes really made the band stand out.

Ned’s Atomic Dustbin were a definite, heavier, contrast to The Wonder Stuff, despite forming in the same town in 1987 (hence the tour name, ‘Love from Stourbridge’). Taking their slightly out-there name from The Goon Show, ‘Atomic’ is definitely one of the words I would use to describe them. Their music is loud, fast and explosive, and you can’t fault their passion. They began with ‘Suave and Suffocated’ and then rolled out the fans favourites, seething with boundless energy and lots of noise.

Ned’s performed numerous club shows in the 80s and 90s, and their (previously teenage) fanbase is clearly still going strong. They have a reputation for crowd surfing and moshing, and I can see why. It was the first time I'd seen a mosh pit of over 50 year olds, however, age did not hold them back. The nostalgia felt by the crowd was evident; they were reliving their youth in the best way they can - through music. For me personally, I enjoyed the Wonder Stuff and Graham Crabb but Ned’s were too heavy for my taste.

Overall, this concert was intense. I enjoyed it, but perhaps it was the audience and enthusiasm of the bands that entertained me more than the music itself.

Featured image: Academy Music Group / The Wonder Stuff & Neds Atomic Dustbin


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