Monday, May 09, 2011

The Icicle Works @ The Academy, Saturday 7th May

Whilst tonight’s gig celebrates 30 years of The Icicle Works lead singer Ian McNabb’s assembled an all new band around him for this tour. Happily he’s picked some cracking people to play with including the loveliest man in rock, Dodgy’s Matt Priest. If you’re not familiar with the band’s back catalogue (and given that they split in 1990 there’s a good chance you might not be) the ‘Works were one of a trio of rather ace Liverpool bands back in the early 80’s (along with Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen). They were also responsible for one of the best tracks of the 80’s the simply sublime ‘Love Is A Wonderful Colour’. The loin moistening prospect of hearing this live was enough of a draw tonight, but McNabb and co were on particularly fine form so competition for track of the night was a lot fiercer than you might expect.

Perhaps predictably the audience, like me, had long since bid sayonara to their 30’s but there’s something about the transformative power of music that peels away the years and as the night wore on a healthy, good natured mini moshpit formed near the front. There was plenty of time for moshing too. With the lifting of a threatened curfew (for a club night of all things) the band ended up playing for just a nudge short of 2 and a half hours...there’s plenty of life in the old dogs still eh? Into that generous slot the McNabb lads crammed all the hits as well as some lesser known tracks like single only release and opening number ‘When It All Comes Down’...which somehow failed to chart way back on its release in...good grief...1985! Equally inexplicably McNabb wore a combat jacket kind of affair and shades throughout the gig. Consequently within a couple of tracks he was sweating like a sumo wrestler in a nylon shell suit. I’ve never seen a dude sweat so much...bucket loads of the stuff...gallons...flying through the air when he flung his head back and pouring off an endless line of guitars (I think a team of guitar techs must’ve been busy out back with sponges, towels, hairdryers, industrial heating units...). It wasn’t just the McNabbster giving it 100% though. I was particularly impressed with Matt’s drumming, as meaty as a rare sirloin when it needed to be, subtle and restrained at other moments, but always right on the beat. Bassist Roy Corkhill provided the perfect foil for McNabb’s incendiary guitar playing and keyboard wiz Richard Naiff completed a surprisingly tight and fresh sounding line up.

After acknowledging their gratitude for the turnout for a band that hadn’t released a record for 27 years they moved up a gear or two for a stunning versions of Whisper To A Scream and Understanding Jane before returning for the obligatory run though ‘Love Is A Wonderful Colour’. Ian informed us that he’d just heard that unnervingly blonde baritone, Rhydian, is covering it for his new album. Oh dear. Tonight the audience did most of the work, but it would be churlish reviewer to bemoan the fact that it became a bit of a karaoke number. Why the hell not eh? After all 30 years after they first formed this particular Icicle seems to be working better than ever...altogether now..."My friend and I were talking..."

PS: Live video shot at the band's recent Liverpool gig...Brum gig every bit as good!

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