March 3rd 2012
Reformations these days are ten a penny, but this was always going to be the most interesting one. Before the days of the big hits such as This Is How It Feels, Dragging Me Down and Saturn 5, Inspiral Carpets were a garage band throwing out two minute punches of organ-driven guitar-heavy songs. They had a different singer, Tom Hingley replacing Stephen Holt in 1989. The early Inspirals legacy was two EPs (Plane Crash and Trainsurfing), a legendary demo tape (Dung 4) and a pile of unreleased material. Forward to 2012, and Holt is back with the band, they're reclaiming their garage roots and, after a couple of shows in South America last year, their first UK gig is at the Sheffield Leadmill.
The show starts with a clock countdown on the screens. As it reaches zero, there's a series of interviews from the nineties on the screen with the band displaying those bowl haircuts they became famous for. There was always a strong visual element to the shows and this is there again tonight, courtesy of local lad Andy Kellett.
The set focuses heavily on the earlier material, with some of the bigger hits that work with the garage band ethos thrown in to give balance to the set for those not so familiar with the earlier material. There's also three new songs, well two new ones You're So Good For Me, which was released as a single last year, and the brand new Changes and a new version of lost demo Head For The Sun. They fit in seamlessly with the rest of the set.
Clint Boon is on his usual good form, asking the crowd if there's anyone from Arctic Monkeys or the Human League in, taunting about Oldham's last minute 3-2 win at Sheffield United earlier in the day and offering to pose for pictures of him sweating. His farfisa drives the sound, but that's nothing to take away from Graham Lambert's guitar and Martyn Walsh's bass, which impose themselves on the songs to make sure it's not the Boon show. Craig Gill's drums, as ever, hold the whole thing together and dictate the pace.
And to the question of Holt. It's 24 years since he last graced the stage with the Inspirals in the UK and this might well be the biggest crowd he's played to with the band here, but you wouldn't be able to tell. Vocally, he's spot on the whole night, even on the later songs that he wasn't involved in.
Comparisons between him and Hingley aren't important, both are great frontmen, both have their own strengths and their own stage presence. The Inspirals are, always were, and always will be a tight-knit band up on stage.
This is a proper reunion, along the lines of the James one a few years ago. It's about the music, delving right back into the catalogue, writing new material and enjoying being on stage together. That shines through tonight, more than anything else. A triumphant return, that despite the lowest profile of the three, that promises to be the most rewarding of the “Madchester” ones this year.
They played Commercial Rain, Joe, She Comes In The Fall, Head For The Sun, Weakness, You're So Good For Me, This Is How It Feels, Butterfly, Directing Traffic, Generations, Keep The Circle Around, Find Out Why, Changes, Seeds Of Doubt, Garage Full Of Flowers, I Want You, Dragging Me Down, Greek Wedding Song and an encore of Theme From Cow, 96 Tears and Saturn 5.