Art schooled post punk group The Monochrome Set reformed a couple of years ago to record ‘Platinum Coils’, a lively and affecting album written during singer Bid’s recovery from a stroke. A cult band at home in the UK, they’ve always had a large following abroad, and have recently been performing short tours and one off dates around the world whenever possible.
Tonight’s gig followed a sold out return to Brighton at the Green Door Store last year, and Sticky Mike’s is heaving with well turned out fans from their 80s heyday. With one or two exceptions, however, (did we really spot old Cherry Red labelmate Momus in the crowd?) none are as stylishly dressed as The Monochrome Set. Few bands pay as much attention to their tailoring as they.
Starting off with ‘The Monochrome Set’ itself – their tongue in cheek, Monkees indebted signature tune – the group take a while to hit their stride. With bassist Andy Warren staring the crowd out and laconic guitarist Lester Square in a state of casual concentration, Bid (just Bid) leads the show at his own pace. Oldies ‘The Lighter Side Of Dating’ and evergreen single ‘The Jet Set Junta’ are dispensed with before the audience warm up, but there’s a willingness on our part for the group to find their comfort zone. And it’s with a brace of his atypically personal ‘Platinum Coils’ songs that Bid does so, the band following suit.
Confidence restored, quick witted songs from their classic 1982 LP ‘Elegant Bachelors’ are gratefully received, even as Bid’s threat never to play the daft astrological tale ‘I’ll Scry Instead’ again are met with protests. There are highlights aplenty to come, including the moving, autobiographical ‘I’m Happy To Be Here’, the irrepressible ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ (one of the great lost singles of the 80s) and the slinky, unfathomable ‘Eine Symphonie Des Grauens’, which generates some enthusiastic interpretive dancing outbreaks.
Two encores ensue, with Bid’s solo ‘Goodbye Joe’ leading into frantic ’79 debut ‘He’s Frank’ and, eventually, UK pop’s most honest sex song ‘The Mating Game’. With tonight’s long mix of new songs, never-quite hit singles and unexpected old album tracks, this was a thorough fans’ show from a rejuvenated band whose health and happiness was heartening to see.
Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, Saturday 2nd February 2013
Words by Stuart Huggett