Sunday 26 March 2023

Inspiral Carpets - Newcastle Boiler Shop - 24th March 2023

No one ever said it was going to be easy. When a good friend messaged me last autumn with the news that Inspiral Carpets would be touring this year, it came as a lovely surprise. It was unexpected, but welcome news and the prospect of seeing my favourite band again helped sustain me through a long winter. 

The second night of the tour and Newcastle’s Boiler Shop is sold out. It’s a lovely big venue and selling out such a huge space is testament to the love and affection for a band who have been away since 2015. The intervening years have seen a surge in popularity for the Oldham five-piece and from the off, they roll out some of their best tunes. 

With World of Twist’s The Storm booming over the PA, the band take to the stage and a quick fire Joe gets the show under. Sounding as strong as ever, it’s the perfect way to open the show and is well received by this appreciative Newcastle audience. “It’s good to be back” says singer Stephen Holt. He’s not wrong, it is indeed. 

Generations follows and this new 2023 line up really gel and sound magnificent. I’m watching Clint Boon, then Ste, then Graham Lambert and then I look to the back of the stage. Craig’s not there. It really hits me. It was always going to be emotional. I am welling up and spend much of the first hour in tears. I’m not sure if they are happy tears or sad tears. Both probably; it’s amazing to see the band back again, especially in these magnificent surroundings, but tinged with sadness that Craig’s not here. Kev Clarke’s drum kit has Craig’s name on it. A fitting tribute to the beating heart of the Inspirals. Having cut his teeth in Dub Sex and Ste’s other band The Rainkings, Kev Clarke is a phenomenal drummer and he powers through each and every number.

After a false start, Weakness has never sounded so good and the cries of ‘Boon Army’ go up from the crowd. Early single Butterfly rattles away at a great pace and there’s great vocal interchange from Stephen and Clint. Graham’s guitars come to the fore whilst new recruit Oscar Boon does an outstanding job on bass. Coming off the sub’s bench for Martyn, he has his own style and this is exemplified on She Comes In The Fall. If there’s a song that showcased the famous Inspirals Engine Room, then it’s this one and both Oscar and Kev nail it. They are filling some big boots and they do so incredibly well. Both bring their own style to the sound and Kev’s drumming on She Comes In The Fall is spectacular, getting a great response from the crowd. Clint’s Farfisa arpeggio gets This Is How It Feels underway. Delivered early in the set, it’s one of the highlights with a commanding Ste vocal. He’s loving every minute and comes down to the crowd throughout the eighty minute set. 

“They’re not booing, they’re mooing” Clint informs us before Two Worlds Collide. Oscar is the star here with a magnificent bass line dominating. He makes it look easy and all evening quietly and unassumingly goes about his business. Let You Down is surprisingly the only newer song to feature in tonight’s set and again that new rhythm section star. 

Caravan, the lead single from second album The Beast Inside has a harder edge than before and is a welcome addition to the set, featuring a sprightly Farfisa from Clint. Blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Find Out Why is delivered at breakneck speed and reminiscent of bands which influenced the Inspirals like Buzzcocks. “These songs are way faster than the record, we’re just f’cking buzzing” announces Clint. He’s not the only one; I’ve been up since 3 this morning with adrenaline kicking in and that kid at Christmas feeling. It’s that feeling I used to get when I started going to gigs at 15. Three decades later and it’s still there on days like today. 

Set highlight for me is Sackville; not a single but perhaps the best Inspirals album track. It’s raw and powerful and a departure from the three minute power pop of Find Out Why. Keep The Circle Around from debut EP Planecrash is incredibly thirty five years old and the oldest song in the set tonight, has a commanding Ste vocal and swirling organ. Uniform is another surprise inclusion and hasn’t really featured in the set much but the crowd absolutely love it. 

Commercial Rain gets the encore underway and once again outstanding work from Oscar before Dad Clint stars on 96 Tears. From 60s  garage band Question Mark and The Mysterians who were a big influence on the Inspirals. The band thank the crowd before traditional set closer Saturn 5 takes the roof off. Even at the end of the set, the band have bags of energy left in the tank. As we head to the merch desk, many of the classic shirts have sold out such is their popularity.

What a night. Emotional. Incredible. Phenomenal. It’s good to have them back and I can’t wait to do it all again soon.

Inspiral Carpets official website is here. They are also on Twitter and Facebook.  

They play Cambridge Junction (March 31), Manchester Albert Hall (April 1), Nottingham Rescue Rooms (2), Leeds O2 Academy (8), Glasgow SWG3 (13), Sheffield Leadmill (14), London Shepherds Bush Empire (15), Coventry HMV Empire (21), Frome Cheese And Grain (22), Holmfirth Picturedrome (May 25), Hull Welly (26), Warrington Neighbourhood Festival (27), Buckley Tivoli (June 15), Cardiff Tramshed (16), Church End Sign Of The Times Festival (17), Dunfermline PJ Molloys (July 20), Edinburgh Liquid Rooms (21), Sunderland Kubix Festival (22), Perth Rosemount Hotel (28/29), Brisbane The Triffid (August 3), Sydney Manning Bar (4), Melbourne Croxton Ballroom (5), Wellington San Fran (8), Auckland Tuning Fork (9), Derby Hairy Dog (24), Norwich Epic Studios (25) and Portsmouth Victorious Festival (26). 

The Complete Singles is out on double vinyl and triple CD.


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