I’ve been all about the musical nostalgia of late as I’ve been working on the playlist for my 30-year high school reunion. One of my favourite cassettes of the era [I started on CDs shortly after, which blows my teenage daughter’s mind…] was Songs To Learn and Sing.
Thankfully, while Ian McCulloch and crew played quite a short set for a headliner, it was packed with hits. That’s not to say the group’s recent releases haven’t been good – but that’s not what this crowd came to hear.
And it was an interesting crowd. Most folks on my side of 40, and as such no one watched the entirety of the gig through their smartphone! More than a few British expats, some sadly clad in their Liverpool shirts. And the requisite young goth with teased hair and just a little too much eyeliner.
Openers Ester Drang [sadly, me neither] hail from Oklahoma and for me mostly sounded like the American version of The Verve. The rhythm section was killer, but the songs were bereft of any Ashcroftian hooks. My mate remarked to me at one point during their set “Imagine growing up in Oklahoma and trying to get attention with this style of music”. Exactly.
Finally, McCulloch took the stage alongside founding guitarist Will Sergeant and their very capable sidemen. Going Up from Crocodiles chosen to open the festivities. The sound was clean and simple lights made sure you could focus on the music.
The body of the 12-song set was hit-laden – with Seven Seas, Bedbugs & Ballyhoo and more of your favourites played expertly and with Ian in good voice.
I’m sure McCulloch’s banter between songs was top notch, but his syrupy scouse accent made it difficult for our Canadian ears to understand. He’s a top front man though, I can see that Liam Gallagher took a lot of inspiration from him.
As the main set closed, Ian introduced The Cutter as “the fourth best song ever written”. I’m still curious as to what would round out his top five…
Finally, the band retook the stage for the encore and the song I most wanted to hear – Lips Like Sugar. It was nothing short of glorious, I honestly wish I knew how many times I’ve heard this tune before finally getting to hear it live.
That marked job done for the band and while I would have liked to hear a few more tracks [Do It Clean and The Back of Love come to mind], I was satisfied to check off another great band on my concert collection.
I know at least one of the bands that will feature on my playlist…