“LET’S make Tuesday night the new Saturday night,” pledges a fired-up Rick Witter after powering through a double-barrelled opening salvo bridging Shed 7’s two decades’ worth of work.
Kicking off with new album opener Room in My House and segueing into 1994 single Speakeasy, the now five-piece Sheds show their musical style may have changed slightly, but their way with a melody and a singalong chorus has never left them.
As if to emphasise the point that right here, right now is the place and time to be, Witter informs a packed O2 Academy crowd that he has checked on the alternative entertainment on offer in Sheffield tonight, and there is “literally nothing” — except a £35 over-18s wreath-making workshop.
As it turns out, a workmate was enjoying the more refined delights of the Northern Ballet at the Lyceum barely 200 yards away, but I suspect neither audience would have been keen to swap places.
If the theatre crowd enjoyed spectacular, gymnastic performances set to compelling, timeless music, the academy audience encountered....well, much the same really, with a typically-effervescent, snake-hipped display from Witter and soaring backing by bandmates led by uber-cool guitarist Paul Banks.
Promising, spiky singles Dolphin and Speakeasy announced Shed 7 on the mid-1990s music scene, but it was the irresistible Going for Gold from 1996’s A Maximum High which brought them their first top ten smash.
A Maximum High, perhaps predictably, forms the biggest share of a joyously-received 100-minute set, while new album Instant Pleasures — No 1 in the indie and vinyl charts and a No 8 in the album rankings — is proudly referred to by Witter but represented only by the abovementioned Room..., the swinging People Will Talk, the anthemic lament to growing older that is It’s Not Easy, and the bittersweet Better Days, perhaps the band’s finest single for nearly 20 years.
All fit in seamlessly, demonstrating how Shed 7 have adapted their sound — most successfully with the addition of a brass section — while staying true to what first brought them success all those years ago.
The brass trio are a welcome inclusion throughout, adding more style and swing to the existing substance and breathing extra life into long-standing tracks, but the essence remains the same: Witter’s versatile vocals and magnetic stage presence, Banks’ driving, fleet-fingered guitar (now ably supported by relative newcomer Joe Johnson), Tom Gladwin’s studied, rolling bass, and Alan Leach’s vigorous drumming.
Witter is in fine form, roaring through the more demanding tracks with no hint of the shredded throat that forced the band to cancel shows for the first time ever last weekend, bantering with the crowd, giving short shrift to a boozed-up heckler, making a 12-year-old boy’s night at his first ever Sheds gig and practically climbing into the crowd during an extended, celebratory encore.
High points include the single-that-never-was High Hopes and blistering versions of Bully Boy, Getting Better, Going for Gold and the brilliant-as-ever Devil in Her Shoes.
The stomping She Left Me on Friday never really won me over in record form but is a joy in this communal arena, with the added flourish of an instrumental homage to The Stone Roses’ I am the Resurrection.
By the time a rousing collective performance of Chasing Rainbows has brought the house down, a sweaty, satisfied academy audience packed with 40-somethings is in no doubt that they opted for the right destination.
Shed 7 are back in Sheffield next weekend — presumably to see if that Saturday night can live up to this Tuesday. It will take some doing.
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