Review: The Wonder Stuff, O2 Academy Sheffield

Miles Hunt on stage with The Wonder Stuff at Sheffield's O2 Academy. Picture credit: Paul Jeeves.
Miles Hunt on stage with The Wonder Stuff at Sheffield's O2 Academy. Picture credit: Paul Jeeves.
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BACK IN the mists of time that were the early 1990s, a Wonder Stuff gig guaranteed a few things.

A run-through of some of the most enduring indie pop classics of that era, fans who were among the most vocal crowds on the live circuit and a frontman with an acerbic wit to match his song-writing abilities.

Miles Hunt on stage with The Wonder Stuff at the O2 Academy in Sheffield. Picture credit: Paul Jeeves.

Miles Hunt on stage with The Wonder Stuff at the O2 Academy in Sheffield. Picture credit: Paul Jeeves.

While heading down the front of a Stuffies gig these days may be a far more sedate affair than in their heyday, singer Miles Hunt has lost none of his cutting humour and the band can still call on a back catalogue that many other acts can only dream of.

The Wonder Stuff’s mini-tour in the run-up to Christmas began in Yorkshire, and with it came a huge slice of nostalgia and the chance to reminisce when tartan suits and unruly hair seemed a constant in the charts.

The set began with Don’t You Ever off the latest album, 30 Goes Around The Sun, but the remainder was perhaps unsurprisingly dominated with tracks from the stand-out points of the band’s career, which marked its 30th anniversary this year.

After an opening salvo of On The Ropes, Unbearable and Radio Ass Kiss, Hunt acknowledged that there was a need to slow the momentum to allow a respite for an audience who were edging far closer to middle age than their teens.

The singer has himself celebrated his 50th birthday this summer, and told the crowd that the passing of time had seen him switch from being the youngest to the oldest member of the band.

But he still remains the consummate showman, stalking the stage while performing the 20-song set, repeatedly encouraging the front rows of the crowd to travel back to their youth.

And he was helped with a set that included a host of The Wonder Stuff’s most memorable tracks, from Mission Drive to Circlesquare via Golden Green.

And while there can be no doubt he has mellowed with age, Hunt’s infamously cutting asides are never far from the surface.

When a member of the audience tried to ruin his build-up to a performance of The Jam’s classic That’s Entertainment in the encore by guessing the song that was coming, Hunt shot back that the individual in question was the “sort of f***ker who opens their Christmas presents on December 24”.

It might not have been the most eloquent of put-downs, but it was effective.

And that pretty much sums up The Wonder Stuff.

Their detractors were always willing to highlight the throwaway nature of some of the band’s biggest hits, The Size of a Cow being a case in point.

But The Wonder Stuff were always a band with a hidden depth to their song-writing, clearly demonstrated by the airing of fans’ favourite Room 512 during the show in Sheffield.

The Stuffies may be part of an ever-growing number of bands who have reformed to capitalise on their fans’ desire to relive a little of their formative years.

However, given that their eighth studio album was released in March, The Wonder Stuff still justify a place in today’s music scene and are not simply an act soaked in nostalgia.

Despite the repeated line-up changes, the difference that marks The Wonder Stuff out is that Miles Hunt remains at the core of the band which has for so long been a part of his life.

And for that early Christmas present in Sheffield, we should be grateful.