Tuesday 19 March 2024

Inspiral Carpets - Stockport AMP - 18th March 2024

Inspiral Carpets played their smallest show in decades on Monday night with a packed out show at AMP in Stockport as part of its Town Of Culture celebrations. With a set full of most of their back catalogue of hits the intimate hot and sweaty gig was a real throwback to their roots as a garage band that grew up on stages of this size before fame came their way.

AMP is an impressive venue, the sort that every town up and down the country needs if we are going to keep alive the grassroots music scene in the face of big arenas and their corporate paymasters chasing every leisure pound. These are the spaces in which headliners cut their teeth, imperfect in many ways, constrained by the layout of their building but making the most of it to create an atmosphere of excitement and where magic happens. Inspiral Carpets may not be new kids on the block, but AMP, like Bask, The Spinning Top and the Blossoms pub are giving the youth of Stockport spaces in which they can develop before hopping on the 192 to the big city down the road. It may not be Berlin or Brooklyn, as the fanciful taglines seized upon by opportunist estate agents and developers go, but Stockport isn't shit as another saying goes.

Inspiral Carpets are on form tonight. The latest incarnation of the band feels like they've really gelled together. Of course they're a different band without Craig, Martyn and Tom from the line-up of their most successful days, but they have always been about the gang mentality of the band rather than the people in it and with last year's successful tours and festival season behind them and a few dates into a tour with Happy Mondays, they come tooled up and ready for action.

They skip through their catalogue from 1988 to 1995 in a non-chronological order, their garage rock early classics like Keep The Circle Around, Butterfly, Find Out Why and Commercial Rain sitting alongside their hits like This Is How It Feels, She Comes In The Fall, Generations, Dragging Me Down and their finale Saturn 5 and fitting in seamlessly. Their only post-reformation track Let Me Down, complete with John Cooper Clark spoken word section, gets interrupted by a thankfully false alarm medical emergency at the back, but both reminds us of their 2015 comeback album and the DNA that still courses through the veins of whoever makes up Inspiral Carpets these days.

There's a real sense of joy emanating from the stage. Clint converses with fans who've become friends in the front rows. Steven Holt's voice, once a subject of debate between fans with different entry points to the band, has never sounded stronger. There's not too many bands that can boast having had two great frontmen, each with their own style. The newcomers, Kev on drums and Oscar on bass, have both fitted in perfectly, respectful of the shoes they've stepped into but not overawed by them, whilst the band's quiet bedrock Graham chats with the front row between songs and the venue's sound system allows the intricacies of his playing to be heard more than in the bigger halls. 

The night's a triumph for band, venue and town. As we wander back through the empty streets on a wet Monday night and run the gauntlet of the 192 back to Town, we reflect on just how many great songs Inspiral Carpets have created over the years, both before and after their more celebrated contemporaries in the hallowed trilogy that fronted the Madchester explosion crashed and burned. They've never forgotten their roots and you sense that if it paid the bills and had free choice they'd play places like AMP every night.

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


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