The Wonderstuff - Manchester Apollo - 5.12.03

You can tell you're getting old when your favourite bands start to come back for the obligatory nostalgia tour. After several gigs in London and Birmingham the Wonderstuff, or Stuffies to their fans, are back on the road with Bentley Rhythm Ace and Voice Of The Beehive for a full scale tour, although slightly more left-field than the Here And Now facade is still ultimately about raking in a tidy retirement plan for the next few years. In retrospect we should have seen this coming a long time ago when Miles Hunt could barely drag a crowd out for his solo acoustic shows across the toilet circuit.

Walking into venue is something of a timewarp in itself. Kingmaker, Ned Atomic Dustbin and Pop Will Eat Itself T-shirts are scattered amongst a sea of old Stuffies tour shirts and it makes me wish I hadn't thrown out mine in one of those life laundry moments. The last time I saw the Stuffies was on the 1994 tour, it was in the middle of what I refer as my indie ghettoization phase where pop was pap and the smaller the indie label the better, but this band were one that seemed terminally indie yet at the same time digging into the nations consciousness with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer for "Dizzy". I was only young at the time so you'll forgive me for jumping on the bandwagon with this hit, but at least I stuck with them till they split years after.

After a disappointing start, Bentley Rhythm Ace bland as f**k DJ set and Voice Of The Beehive who have about 2 hits to their name yet drag out a set for 40 minutes or so, it's somewhat of a lukewarm start to the Stuffies set. More of a fans setlist than a casual observer they start with the less familiar material "Fatman", "Can't Shape Up and "Mission Drive". It's just not what we expected on this nostalgia trip and there's a distinct difference between the bulk of post "Never Loved Elvis" material such as Caught In My Shadow", "Golden Green", "Size Of A Cow" and "It's Your Money I'm After Baby" and some of the more forgettable tracks such as Admittedly highlights such as "Room 512" with Miles, acoustic guitar and fiddle stand out as do rare outings for tracks such as "Poison" but there's an overwhelming feeling that this very much a thing of the past.

Whereas the comeback of bands such the Inspiral Carpets and the Happy Mondays were deemed necessary, the Wonderstuff's comeback was very much in the same vein as that of the Mock Turtles - pleasure, a lovely reminder of the past, but essentially something we don't really need in our lives. There's going to be a hard-core fanbase who disagree and they're welcome to spend £25 every Christmas for the memories. I've got the CD's and i'm happy with them, but next year I'll be spending the cash on something new and something relevant.

Alex McCann

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