“It’s time to burn this disco down…”
In a week that in which I have spent most of my spare time listening to a podcast about 90s football, it is fitting that I also had the pleasure of watching two musical titans from the decade that dominated my formative years. As music becomes more predictable and football ever more sanitised, I find myself harking back to the days of my childhood more and more. When England were knocked out of Euro 96 it was the Cast single ‘Walkaway’ that was played over the highlights reel at the end of the game. These bands are forever linked to a time that I recall with nothing but fondness and if that invites accusations of rose tinted glasses then so be it. I will wear those rose tinted glasses, below my bucket hat, with pride.
While I have seen Cast front man John Power before, I had never caught the Liverpool band in full. Beginning a support slot with a couple of new songs is a risky move but ‘Do That’ and particularly ‘Baby Blue Eyes’ are well received and performed with gusto. The sizeable Sheffield crowd don’t have long to wait for something more familiar however with a furious rendition of ‘Sandstorm’ giving way to a triumphant run through of ‘Finetime’. Cast are one of those bands that have more hits than you remember and as ‘Live the Dream’ melts into the aforementioned ‘Walkaway’, it is not difficult to imagine a single tear running down Gareth Southgate’s face…
John Power keeps stage patter to a minimum but he does find time for a quick dig against the Tories before an extended jam of ‘Free Me’ leads into set closer ‘Alright’. It is not often you get to see such a successful band as a support act and as Cast leave the stage there is a feeling we are getting two for the price of one at Sheffield Academy.
Shed Seven are a band that I have seen a number of times but as with all the great live acts, no two shows are ever the same. This gig promised to be particularly eventful with the top 10 album Instant Pleasures recently released to widespread critical and commercial acclaim. Shed front man Rick Witter refers to this chart success throughout the gig with more than a hint of relish. Witter has got it all as a lead singer; imposing, confident, talented. Indeed, at times, in between songs, he is as much a comedian as he is an indie rock singer, as proven by his regular tangles with hecklers. When it comes to music though the laughter stops as the York band have produced a stunning comeback album after sixteen years away.
Shed burst into recent single ‘Room in my House’ with an infectious enthusiasm and it is clear to see this was going to be a special night. The band look and sound great from the off and classic single ‘Speakeasy’ has the crowd moving. It is easy to forget just how many great songs this band have but for those that know, Shed Seven will always be an event as a live band. Against a stage draped in Christmas lights, Shed smash through ‘Where Have You Been Tonight?’ and ‘High Hopes’, barely giving the audience time to catch their breath.
‘Devil in Your Shoes’ comes into its own as a live track and the bitter stomp of ‘She Left me on Friday’ always raises a smile. ‘Disco Down’ and ‘Going for Gold’ close out the first part of the set with both receiving a rousing reception from the Sheffield crowd.
Despite becoming a little distracted that my wife was admiring Rick Witter for a little more than his musical ability, I managed to regain my composure in time to sing along to every word of ‘Chasing Rainbows’. In terms of big britpop ballads, I actually always preferred ‘Ocean Pie’ (sadly absent tonight), but there is no denying that ‘Chasing Rainbows’ is a showstopper.
I genuinely miss the 90s but life is all about moving forward. With Instant Pleasures and an unforgettable gig in Sheffield, Shed Seven prove they are very much a band for now.