NEARLY A quarter of a century ago, Miles Hunt fronted what was supposed to be the final ever gig of his band, The Wonder Stuff, in front of tens of thousands of fans at a former airfield in Staffordshire.
And 24 years on, after the band reformed in 2000, the quirks of the entertainment industry saw him make his debut in the North Yorkshire market town of Selby.
Despite the high emotions of that July evening at the Phoenix Festival in 1994, the intimate surroundings of Selby’s Town Hall are perhaps an equally fitting setting to witness Hunt’s stripped-back acoustic run-through of a song-writing career spanning the best part of 40 years.
Starting the solo performance with Speakeasy, a song he wrote as a 13-year-old, Hunt then proceeded to embark on a 80-minute journey through a back catalogue that showcased why he is one of Britain’s most underrated songwriters.
He raised a wry smile from many in the sell-out audience when he informed them that after 32 years of performing live, the road had led to Selby, adding: “It doesn’t get better than this.”
But the opportunity to witness Hunt armed with an acoustic guitar, his trademark acerbic wit while recounting the back-story as to how a succession of songs came into existence was a privilege.
He acknowledged many of the crowd would be “heading to the bar after 20 minutes” as he followed a very rough chronology with the set, with the first half firmly focused on songs from The Wonder Stuff’s heyday through the late 1980s and into the mid-1990s.
But Hunt has a knack of luring an audience in to undertake a journey of reminiscence of songs that still mean so much to them.
There were the hits, such as Caught In My Shadow and Unbearable, coupled with B-sides, including the wonderful Room 512, All The News That’s Fit To Print.
Tracks from his solo career included Everything Is Not OK, which Hunt himself acknowledged had a resonance that was never more pertinent in the current political climate.
Ever the showman who has mastered the art of reading a crowd, he finished the set with a quick-fire trio of songs from the formative years of The Wonder Stuff, performing Circlesquare, Wish Away and finally Give, Give, Give Me More, More, More.
His chance of becoming the stadium band he proudly declared The Wonder Stuff could have been while on stage at the Phoenix Festival may be long gone, but Hunt’s charisma and song-writing prowess should never be consigned to history.