This review is spilt into two bits...you've probably read the second bit first...'cos it comes first...but it was second. Right? So, the review of two halves started with a pint at The Wellington pub on Bennets Hill. Real ale a go go. Suitably refreshed we toddled down to the Barfly for a swift Grolsch (you can see how this evening was going already can't you) and then an unexpected treat...The Reverie Strings! Having seen them a week or so ago at The Sunflower Lounge gig I hadn't expected to see them again quite so quickly. Would they match up to my first gig reverie? In a word....yes. Despite being a (wo)man down, one of the 'strings' was working elsewhere, they were every bit as special the second time round. Vocalist Ian has the kind of delivery that makes great singing look easy, whilst Helen and Julia (viola and cello respectively) are clasically trained musicians with a natural flair for adapting their instruments to fit the lyrics and feel of the material. You can tell a great band when you recognise and get a warm glow for songs after just one listen. Reverie Strings are just such a band.
A fan of The Wonderstuff since back in the day, I've been fortunate to see Miles quite a few times over the past few years. He came back on the live music scene with some great acoustic shows at The Flapper, Ronnie Scotts and The Irish Centre, then reformed the original Stuffies (minus The Bass Thing RIP) for a great gig at Dudley JB's. Something happened after that and The Wonderstuff came back with a different line up (although the core of Malc Treece and Miles remained). Now The Wonderstuff features the talents of Erica Nockalls (also from the Birmingham Conservatoire...just like the Strings section of the Reverie Strings). The two of them have recorded a new album whilst the Malcolm enjoys fatherhood for a while. Here endeth the history lesson.
In terms of songwriting talent I'd put Miles hunt in the same category as someone like Elvis Costello. He's written an incredible range of material (200 tracks for The Wonderstuff alone) and is responsible for some of the best British records of the last 20 years. Why he isn't lauded as much as other artists is a mystery...could it be that the self confessed 'moody bastard' persona of early Hunt and his decision to split the Stuffies at the very height of their fame has frightened over the sensative taste makers. Well, balls to 'em. Miles Hunt is still scarily great. Erica adds a whole new dimension to tracks like Cartoon Boyfriend and Caught In My Shadow whilst new material seems every bit as strong as the stuff he was doing way back when. Sprinkling the set (yes, I know there's a water shortage...what the hell has happened to all of the rain...but it was only a metaphorical sprinkle...quite acceptable) with anecdotes, the odd fag and regular glugs from a bottle of vin rouge he seems quite content with his place in the musical world...and I'm quite happy to have him here...but, you mark my words, one day 'they'll' wake up and realise just how good he was/is. The groove machine (no matter how many legs it might have now) storms on.
PS: I'm glad to report that Miles stayed behind after the gig and could still be seen at the bar long after the We Get Kicks bands had finished (the wee small hours...well for me anyway). I wanted to shake his hand for a job well done but he had a drink in each one so I had to make do with a manly pat on the back. Good work fella.