“I’ve been told not to speak, otherwise we’ll be here until Christmas,” declares Pete Wylie as he strides onto the O2 Academy stage with a (once again) rejuvenated The Mighty Wah! Anyone who has had the pleasure of spending time with Wylie will know how much he likes a gab and anyone who has heard the raconteur live will know how his gigs are as much about his observant anecdotes, as they are the music that has become a soundtrack to this city.
He’s back with the band tonight, though, for the first time in maybe a decade or so, and there’s good reason why he’s been silenced, temporarily at least, as he only had the best part of half an hour to get through that impressive back catalogue of glorious hits, misses and maybes. New songs were expected, in the year of his Pledge-assisted ‘Pete Sounds’ album, too. Opening with the tub-thumping ‘Come Back’, Wylie broke his silence immediately, announcing that this song is about those who had given up on Liverpool. “People gave up on me once, but looked at me now,” he quipped. It’s a celebration of his greatest hits, but thankfully there is still time for something from the forthcoming album in the form of the anthemic ‘Freefalling’, before normal service is resumed with ‘Seven Minutes to Midnight’. “Thanks the likes of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, there’s a chance that finally might be a hit all these years later,” he says probably not joking.
In a nod to one of the many musical casualties of 2016, ‘Sinful’ is overlapped beautifully with David Bowie’s ‘”Heroes”‘, before Wylie is joined on stage by his daughter, Mersey ( a star of LIMF 2016 in her own right), for an emotional finale of ‘Story Of The Blues’ and ‘Heart as Big as Liverpool’, the latter dedicated, of course, to the 96: “The fight goes on, so do whatever you can,” barks Wylie defiantly. Judging by the reception as he leaves the stage, if he had gone on until Christmas, nobody would have given a shit.
Given that many are here for Wylie’s big band return, we’re to be forgiven for forgetting that we’re actually at O2 Academy for ‘From Eric’s To Evol’, a big part of LIMF 2016. The likes of Buzzcocks, Feral Love and Clinic had rocked Arts Club, over on Seel Street, earlier in the weekend, and the ‘something new’ of this event came in the form of Sugarmen – newly signed to Warner Bros. Most will have heard them around the town by now, they’ve had big support slots (The Who, Blur), played all the festivals (Sound City, Liverpool Music Week) and get better each time they play a big stage.
Sure, not many seemed to make the effort to get in early to see them (you try getting old punks away from the boozer into an overpriced and sponsored room), but those who did were rewarded with a livewire set, propelled by the band’s twin guitar attack. If Sugarmen are to be around in thirty years to play the anniversary of this event, then they’re going to need a few more standout belters… opener ‘Gallows’ is a cracking start, though.
Next up, we got the something borrowed, as cockney Clive Langer got in on the act. Quite rightly, too, with his Eric’s, Deaf School (why didn’t they play, most of them were in Langer’s band?) and Elvis Costello background. The Clang Group are Clive’s latest project and with an an album imminent, we were treated to a few unfamiliar tunes. They were as you’d expect from the man who co-wrote ‘Shipbuilding’, but nothing touched that genius in truth. It was great to hear him play said classic, though.
The headliners, then. Well, it’s easy to forget just what a hits machine The Lightning Seeds have been in their thirty years or so of existence. Originally something of a one-man-outfit when bursting onto the scene in the late eighties with ‘Pure’, the make-up of the band has changed and evolved as the years have passed, with only bassist Martyn Campbell and his harmonies surviving from those early days. The quality of the music has remained consistent, however, and let’s face it (and try to forget ‘Three Lions’, not played here) the fact is Ian Broudie has an incredible knack of writing catchy pop songs.
A key player in the post-punk Liverpool scene, as a member of Big in Japan, there is something of a pop establishment vibe about Broudie now – but a night celebrating the influence of Eric’s on the city’s music scene wasn’t lost here. “He would send me off with a couple of albums to listen to,“ reminisced Broudie, talking of the club’s founding father Roger Eagle. “I’d listen to them, bring them back and then he’d give me another load to take home,” he told the expectant crowd. What these records were or who the bands that a young Broudie had been spoon-fed by Eagle was not revealed, but they obviously made a huge impact on a budding songwriter, as was evident as he rattled through a bulging back catalogue. Bona fide hits like ‘Lucky You’, ‘Sense’, and ‘Perfect’ were all included in a highly polished set, enhanced by the addition of ex-The Zutons’ Abi Harding on Saxophone and keyboards. A slightly stripped-down version of ‘The Life of Riley’ was a highlight and almost had a folk feel to steal it back from ‘Match Of The Day’ mania.
Just when you thought the string of hits had come to an end, ‘Marvellous’, ‘Change’, ‘Sugar Coated Iceberg’ and an encore of the incandescent ‘Pure’ proved, if it was needed, that Broudie and The Lightning Seeds could justifiably lay claim to providing a soundtrack for a generation. Whether or not that generation is as identifiable as those celebrated by ‘From Eric’s To Evol’ is open to debate…
Pic by Sakura