The Wonder Stuff + Ned’s Atomic Dustbin bring O2 Academy back to life, 04/04

As all music fans will know, the run-up to any gig is fraught with anticipation, but the wait for this particular Academy show was a little more intense. For many, seeing The Wonder Stuff and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin finally share a stage again was a dream 27 years in the making, a fact both bands seemed keenly aware of.

Things kicked off with a DJ set from another Stourbridge icon, with Pop Will Eat Itself’s Graham Crabb making an appearance. However, his prestige and enthusiasm were no match for a crowd that seemed to skew older and more listless – leaving him to play hit after carefully chosen hit to a motionless audience.

It took the Neddies’ impish frontman John Penney to bring the venue to life and, even then, it was three or four songs before the crowd finally found their feet. However, some combination of the band’s sly jabs at their ageing fanbase’s energy levels, and an unfathomably bouncy rendition of ‘Less Than Useful’, soon had everybody over 40 pogoing like the old days.

Grinning ceaselessly and in constant movement, Penney seemed hyperaware and buoyed up by the uniqueness of the moment, and the enduring love of the people who had brought it about. The Wedding Present, Sisters Of Mercy, and even fellow nineties’ indie rockers Cud were name-dropped – making the Academy and all those inside it feel strangely unmoored in time.

By the time the heavy hitters rolled around, from the romantic ‘Grey Cell Green’ to the pounding ‘Kill Your Television’, the whole band seemed to have recaptured the raw energy of two decades ago, and the crowd responded in kind.

In fact, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin’s skill in whipping the crowd into a frenzy managed to work against the night as a whole, as by the time The Wonder Stuff took to the stage, the previously energized crowd seemed deflated. In spite of that, the combination of Miles’ tongue-in-cheek grouchiness and Erica’s irresistibly danceable violin solos, at least saw people doing their best to bounce around.

‘It’s Yer Money I’m After Baby’ got the usual raucous cheer, and ‘Circlesquare’ was met with such a profound sense of wry nostalgia that it was almost palpable. And, as always, ‘Size Of A Cow’ saw half the crowd hit the bar while the other half hit the roof, so I guess no matter what decade it is, some things never change.

Rhiannon-Skye Boden