Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Concert Review: The Wonder Stuff, Metro, April 12

Miles Hunt has managed to alienate some people in his lifetime. As mentioned in my previous post, two former Wonder Stuff members are pissed off that he's using the band name without them. In introducing a song at last night's show at the Metro, he related an anecdote that involved mutual acquaintances describing him to a friend using an epithet that rhymes with his last name. One imagines that his caustic wit his cost him some friendships over the years, but it's that same caustic wit that makes him such a distinctive lyricist. However, biting words aren't enough to captivate attention, as I learned catching his solo shows about six years ago. For that you need a full band, and Miles brought them along with the re-formed Stuffies. (He got encouragement from Joe Strummer. Who's to argue?)

As four burly security guards lined up in the no man's land between the stage and audience, I thought, "That's awfully optimistic." The band were never terribly popular in the U.S. even at their peak 15 or so years ago, and it's not exactly like their reputation has grown since then. In other words, I expected a small, aging crowd. What I didn't expect was that I wasn't the only one to have memorized the lyrics to Eight Legged Groove Machine or how well both the material and the band have held up. Miles and fellow founder Malc Treece were having a blast and were energetic performers, tearing it up on guitars and vocals. The new recruits on bass and drums had little of Miles and Malc's chemistry but were sufficiently talented.

With the reincarnation of the band, they are taking nothing for granted. Miles joked about the apathy with which their latest single was greeted in the UK, especially compared to the chart heights they reached in their heyday. But it's hard to call it pandering when they were singing things like, "I didn't like you very much when I met you/And now I like you even less" and "Radio Ass Kiss on the air." The show was a revelation, that the Stuffies really were just as good as I remembered them, and that it's unfortunate that so few people latched onto their galloping insult-a-thon on the first go-round.

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