Inspiral Carpets Review
Fifty miles away, on a slice of converted wasteland in the East End, director Danny Boyle is celebrating the story of London with the help of some farmyard animals. Here in the Concorde, a near-capacity crowd “moo” appreciatively in celebration of Manchester. More specifically, Madchester, a fixed point in time (as Doctor Who would have it) where for a few short years as the 80s became the 90s, baggy tie-dyed clothes, pudding bowl haircuts and lolling hippy-esque dance moves were somehow acceptable. Blame it on the drugs.
Or the music. Of the trio of bands that most defined the Madchester sound, the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays remain arena-fillers; the Inspirals occupy more modest environs such as this. They always were the most awkward of the three – their garage rock inclinations underhooked by psychedelic swirls on a 60s Farfisa organ. An angular, intricate sound far trickier to sway about to trashed on the dancefloor. That shouldn’t be an issue tonight – if this largely middle aged crowd are popping pills, it’s probably Zantac. Antacid house, anyone?
Fifty miles away, the Queen jumps out of a helicopter. Moo.
The current incarnation of the Inspirals boasts the return of ‘original singer’ Stephen Holt. Whilst factually correct, this is something of a mixed blessing. Tom Hingley, the singer most associated with the band (front-man during the Madchester years) quit in 2011, having helmed nearly a decade of reunion tours. Stephen is their singer from pre-fame days, alumnus of a couple of years of Manchester pub gigs and obscure debut EP.
Whilst keyboardist Clint Boon has always been much of the focus of the band anyway, and Hingley was hardly Pavarotti, there’s still a feeling of something missing in the opening numbers. NotTom’s vocals aren’t quite as crisp or pointed at the upper end, and there are hints of nerves. Things settle five songs in with recent single ‘You’re So Good For Me’, one of the few tracks originally voiced by Holt in a largely Greatest Hits set. It’s well received, and is followed by the group’s signature track ‘This Is How If Feels’ – a melancholic slice of pop narration as soap opera, TheOneEveryoneKnows is nailed by NotTom. The band and audience visibly relax as a result, any nerves on both sides dissipated.
Fifty miles away, a tracksuit fashion parade begins. Moo.
Most better known tracks from the group’s heyday get an airing: ‘Satellite’, ‘Joe’, ‘Dragging Me Down’, ‘I Want You’ (Mark E Smith’s part reduced to one pre-recorded line), ‘She Comes In The Fall’ et al. New song ‘Changes’ is dedicated to “orgasm girl”, a woman in the crowd who has been cheering a little too enthusiastically. The songs old and new sound fresh and punchy. Bald bassist Martyn Walsh carries a beaming smile throughout, and his bass combined with Boon’s bright and buzzy Farfisa exercise the dynamics of the Concorde’s sound system. At heart, it’s a workmanlike performance; nothing to send a postcard home about, but then it does what it says on the tin, and that’s probably precisely what most of the crowd have paid to see.
Final encore ‘Saturn 5’ sees some surprisingly enthusiastic moshing from an audience of mums and dads harking back to their teenage years. This winding back of time doesn’t extend to buying a reprint of the group’s iconic ‘Cool As Fuck’ T-shirt, though. Trade in them is far from brisk as the crowd passes the merch stand on their way out. The campus look of 1990 deemed not appropriate for the bank queues and business centres of 2012, we suspect.
Fifty miles away, some teenagers start a small fire. Moo.
Concorde2, Friday 27th July 2012
Words by Adam Peters
Photos by Will Barber @ Love Heart Photography