Like a night out in Sheffield…
‘This could never have happened 10 years ago because our heads were too big’ smiles Joe Carnall Jnr to his adoring Sheffield crowd. Whether that is true or not is debatable, what is clear however, is how much this band mean to this crowd. Sheffield loves Milburn and on a rainy night in South Yorkshire, Milburn loves the steel city right back…
But before we get to that point, there is the small matter of one of the most exciting new bands in the country. Cabbage have been described in the music press as ‘thrilling’, ‘funky’ and ‘dark’. When they bounce on to the outdoor stage at Don Valley Bowl, it is clear that this is a band on an upward trajectory. Cabbage are like Slaves but with better lyrics and more aggression, combining songs about dinner ladies with more serious political fare. A large group of impossibly young looking lads and lasses shout back every word to their Mancunian heroes. A few bared torsos and loads of massive riffs later and just like that they are gone.
Reverend and the Makers have always been beloved in their home city of Sheffield but that has not always translated nationally. Not since their all-conquering debut The State of Things dropped in 2007 at least. This is a shame because they have been quietly releasing brilliant albums the whole time. Frontman Jon McClure strolls out on stage like he owns it and for forty-five minutes or so, he does. They kick off with the dance stomp of ‘Bassline’ and the crowd immediately goes nuts. There is no messing about as they fly straight into first album single ‘Open Your Window’ and from there it is all killer. ‘Shine A Light’ gives the crowd a little time to breathe before smash single ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’ has all of Don Valley Bowl jumping. New song ‘Too Tough to Die’ already sounds massive with a huge, chugging guitar riff pushing the speakers to their limit. ‘He Said He Loved Me’ has the crowd jumping all over again and McClure looks like his is loving it just as much as the people watching. By the end of the set Sheffield has forgotten about the driving rain and everyone is smiling from ear to ear. Jon McClure may once have sang about being the heavyweight champion but he will have to settle for being the people’s champ in Sheffield.
And so to the main event. Milburn’s comeback has been so successful that it must have taken even the band by surprise. Traditional set opener ‘Well Well Well’ is greeted like an old friend as pint pots are thrown, ponchos are torn and arms are held aloft. Such is the swell of the crowd that I am flung backwards ten feet within the first ten seconds. ‘Send in the Boys’ really gets the party started however as Milburn prove they can translate their hectic live show to a bigger stage. New songs ‘Midnight Control’ and ‘Keep Me In Mind’ hint at an exciting future for the band but it is old favourites ‘Showroom’ and ‘Cheshire Cat Smile’ that really get the crowd going.
The age range of the audience is striking but it shows that word of mouth and years of touring are still enough to make a band successful. The frantic ‘Count To Ten’ sends the Sheffield punters wild again and we all need the tranquillity of ‘Summertime’ just to catch our breath. ‘Lipstick Licking’ is one of Milburn’s oldest songs and based on the crowd reaction also one of the most beloved. The beautifully melodic ‘What About Next Time’ gives way to newer, slower version of ‘Storm in a Teacup’ that totally transforms the song into something better. Popular single ‘What Will You Do (When the Money Goes)’ closes out the first part of the set and is met with glee and a raucous sing along.
Joe Carnall Jnr comes out for the encore to play a solo version of acoustic favourite ‘Roll Out the Barrel’ but they save the best song for last. Music has the ability to transform you to a place or time in your life. ‘What You Could’ve Won’ reminds me of endless summers, endless drinking and endless fun. Based on the joyous reaction of people around me, I’m not the only one. It is an incredible, juggernaut of a song that deserves to be much bigger than it is. That’s ok though, because for one special night at Don Valley Bowl it is my song, it is our song, it is Sheffield’s song.