Monday, February 20, 2012
MILES HUNT / ERICA NOCKALLS 11 Feb 2012 Tunbridge Wells Forum
Britains finest songwriting duo back on their never ending tour.
Six years in, Miles Hunt and Erica Nockalls – the songwriting duo that has powered The Wonder Stuff – are back on the road after the longest break they've had yet : five whole weeks. For the past several years, the two have made their lives that of the most honourable of professions, driving across the world armed with guitars and ideas, taking their songs anywhere that will have them. On a cold and snowy Saturday, it's the small town of Tunbridge Wells, and a capacity crowd of 200 or so for the first acoustic show in this venue in half a decade.
Whilst the past few years have been a combination of a flurry of new solo records, curating two multi-artist albums, revisiting Wonder Stuff material on record, and presenting first half of the Wonder Stuff discography on the road, they have also seen Miles & Erica playing upwards of 80 to 100 shows a year across the world, with the kind of prolific workrate that shames some of their (larger) contemporaries. Maybe only Bob Dylan tours so much. And a night with Miles and Erica is far more than any evening with Bob Dylan.
Even if you are deeply familiar with all the songs (and you won't be, for at least three - “The Right Side Of The Turf”, “The Day The World Turned Day Glo”, and “Immaculate Fools” - have yet to see a release on one of their records), the evening is a splendid two hours of music and stories from the most under-rated talent in the country. Opening with “The Truth At Last”, the pair match Miles' frenetic chords and literate, intelligent wordplay with Erica's rhythmic, but expansive fiddleplaying : it's not that you miss the drums, the bass, the bite of electric guitar, as much as these songs still stand strong without them, and the sparse backing presents these songs in a more naked form, showing other, perhaps hidden sides.
But it's not just the songs. Tonight is about so much more than just presenting the songs : it is, as all the acoustic evenings are, intimate and broad ; tales from the life of Miles and Erica over the past thirty years : taken from all periods of the life and work. I would hesitate to call it a career as such, for this implies some kind of plan, and life, as we all know, might be made of plans – but it is also made of making it up as you go along, because none of us can see the future. And having seen Miles' play – solo, and with bands – in 14 different lineups, – over the past twenty years, tonight is, as much as any night, the work of a passionate pair who love music as much as life itself. As one should.
Given that this is the twentieth anniversary of the most popular Wonder Stuff record - “Never Loved Elvis” - tonight sees half of that record performed live, including, for only the fifth or so time, “False Start”. And “Caught In My Shadow”, which is a song that means more to anyone who has ever left their home town, than most other people will know. (I am also probably the only person in this room, apart from Miles', who appears in the video).
Time may pass. New songs may arrive. But these songs, new and old, are moments, fractions of our lives. They are snapshots into our feelings, our emotions, and how we see the world. When Miles sings “These streets used to look big, this town used to look like a city, these people used to talk to me”, he captured the moment when – without even knowing – you went to being an adult, and when the world we often live in starts to look extremely small.
And yes, if you don't love music, I don't always trust you.
The main body of the set comes to a close with “Here Comes Everyone.” This song, as much as any written by anyone, anywhere, ever, opens for me a world. I cannot explain it in any rational way. We may change, we may grow up, we may grow old, but we are all people, and I am the same person I was then, albeit more refined, more detailed, perhaps, but like these songs, the things I believed, the morals I held, the world I made in my own mind, defined my reality, these things remembered remain unchanged. What was strong, and compelling then, is also strong and compelling now.
Which is a long way of saying that Miles & Erica are still vibrant, firey, still burning, as they always will. It may only be word, songs, lyrics, music. I don't care what you think of it. I know that when life disappointed me, when the light was gone, that these songs, and many others like it, saved me.
The Truth At Last
Fill Her Up & Foot Down
Welcome To The Cheap Seats
New Song (George)
These Things Remembered
Plans In The Sky
Caught In My Shadow
The Day The World Turned Day-Glo
Here Comes Everyone
Piece Of Sky
Don’t Let Me Down, Gently