Gig Review: The Wonder Stuff at Rock City

Words: Kevin Stanley
Photos: Rae Dowling
Sunday 30 July 2023
reading time: min, words

Kevin Stanley was transported back to 1993 as he saw The Wonder Stuff take to the Rock City stage...

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The Wonder Stuff have been around for a while - apart from a little break between 1994 and 2000, they’ve been a mainstay of the British music scene for almost 40 years. They’ve had to endure two deaths and frequent line-up changes, with 17 musicians at one point or another being able to claim to have played for the Stourbridge outfit. Miles Hunt is the only person who can claim to be a continuous presence in the band over the years, with guitarist Malcolm Treece having taken a break at one point. Violinist Erica Nockalls has been with the band (and as an occasional duo with Hunt) for almost 20 years. But no matter who has played alongside Hunt, The Wonder Stuff has always been a band that plays with passion and attitude which makes them a genuinely enjoyable act.

In 2023 the band re-released its fourth album Construction for the Modern Idiot on the 30th anniversary of its original release. It reached a very respectable number four in the UK charts, buoyed by the likes of hit singles On the Ropes, Hot Love Now and Full of Life (Happy Now) and heavy sales from devoted life-long Wonder Stuff fans.

Fans of Construction for the Modern Idiot are in for a treat as The Wonder Stuff transported fans back to 1993 as they played the album in its entirety. And if that wasn’t enough for one hit-packed gig, they then play a second set of hits, classics and rarities from their extensive 37-year catalogue.

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The line-up for Rock City was Miles Hunt on guitar and vocals, Malcolm Treece on guitar, Erica Nockalls on fiddle, Mark Gemini-Thwaite on guitar, Tim Sewell on bass and Pete Howard on drums. And while the first set may be for the hardcore fans rather than the casual listener, they still have a handful of hits from this record including I Wish Them All Dead, Hot Love Now, Full of Life (Happy Now), Sing the Absurd, and the one that gets everyone in the crowd jumping and singing, On the Ropes

Hunt’s interaction with the crowd was really good as he knows how to work the fans, telling short stories such as the recent gig when one ‘fan’ didn’t know that they were playing the whole of the Construction album, and even when informed that they were playing a second set of hits still left. It’s these self-effacing anecdotes that make Hunt so likeable and allows him to create a bond with his audience. “Don’t worry,” he says “we’re coming back, later to play the songs that you do like.”

As Hunt and his band take to the stage for the second set, they run through a couple of great songs, Mission Drive and Caught in my Shadow, before Hunt tells the audience that they are about to play the “silliest song we’ve ever written” – the uber-crowd-pleaser Size of a Cow. There are too many to mention but other tracks to feature included Golden Green, Don’t Let Me Down Gently, and Here Comes Everyone which the crowd sung along to enthusiastically. By this point, the crowd was moving and bouncing along as one.

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The Wonder Stuff have got killer guitar hooks, some truly unforgettable choruses and Hunt’s fantastic vocals. Nockalls adds something special and unique with her violin playing and she looked amazing in a yellow sequined dress, adding glamour to the roll and rock outfits of the rest of the band. Treece seems to prefer to keep out of the spotlight but he’s as talented and committed as ever, and the rest of the band are tight and all musically adept. They truly are Stuff of Wonder.

The second set naturally played out like a ‘best of’ and every track shook Rock City to the foundations because, believe it or not, The Wonder Stuff are pretty loud! They ended with Give Give Give, Me More More More and Hunt tells the audience “it’s only taken us 37 years to realise that if we end with this song we can get the crowd to sing it for us,” as it led into the encore break where the crowd continued to sing it until the band returned.

Unbearable and Ten Trenches Deep put the final touches to a fantastic double set that included a staggering 27 songs. That my music loving friends is value for money. And when Hunt and the rest of the band are on form this good and enjoying performing to a very appreciative crowd, you know that they will be back again soon. It was great night for the sell-out audience at Rock City that clearly enjoyed every minute of the show.

The Wonder Stuff played Rock City on Thursday 27 July 2023.

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