The Ordinary Boys - Manchester Academy 1 - 20.3.06

Whether it's love, money or a course of prozac Preston's finally cheered up and stopped strolling around like a miserable curmugeon. For much of tonights audience this is their first chance to witness the new found celebrity in his day job, but for the Ordinary Army down the front it's their chance to watch "their" band and try their best to block out the mini-chantelle's and the chav massive that surround them. It's these people that have watched the plethora of Manchester appearances from the Ordinary Boys, gigs which were cathartic exercises for Preston, a personal therapy session for him to bemoan the ills of the world and in turn leave the audience feeling beaten down and depressed....naturally now his sole utterances of the night as a modern celebrity are his 2 catchphrases - "It's mental" and "Wicked man" - and athough by the end of the night this begins to tire he's starting to warm to us two albums and god knows how many years later.

It would take a hardened cynic not to be won over before the band have even hit the stage. As they rip in to "Week In Week Out" the atmosphere is electric with the Ordinary Army raising the roof with a few more consignments drawn in over the past couple of months. "Life Will Be The Death Of Me" follows to a rapturous reception. With a blinding light show there's a strange sense that this isn't a gig, but a mere extension of his time in the Celeb BB house and that any time Davina McColl could jump out and say here's your best moments. Like those other tabloid indie stars Pete Doherty and Arctic Monkey's there's a detached nature that takes it away from being a gig and more about being a voyeur into another world.

The problems occur when they tip over into the ska sessions of "Brassbound". "Don't Live To Fast" seems more like a comedy pastiche than the authentic swagger of the Dead 60s. More interesting are the b-sides for the older fans, which dont so much sound like Smiths tracks, but rewrites of Echobelly's earlier material from a male perspective Unleashing an unexpected "Call To Arms", a track never before aired in the UK and a cheery Blur-esque romp through Chas And Dave, The Jam and invariably The Libertines. It's the sort of simply anthemic song that demands to be rewritten as one of this years England World Cup Contenders.

Prestons "mental" world had clearly sent him doolally as that little pub, the Academy 1, doh Preston - it's the Academy 3 you're reminising about where older fans will recall they played alongside uber-pop band the Delays and the now defunct Minuteman. By the time they've come to "Boys Will Be Boys" via the superior "Talk Talk Talk" the Ordinary Boys, yes a full band not just the singer, have proved that they have an arsenal of hits that can easily compete with the Kaiser Chiefs a zillion times over.

Coming back for an encore with a pure maudlin ballad followed by "Settle Down" and the closing "Seaside" The Ordinary Boys delivered a set which may just prove wrong the theory that reality TV stars only resucitate their career in the short term before fading away. On the proof of tonights performance they've got a long career ahead of them.

Words: Alex McCann
Photos: Kirsty Umback

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