Ever been to The Forum in Tunbridge Wells? It’s a great traditional venue. Not too big, not too small, matt black covered walls that seem cold and sticky to the touch. Funny smelling toilets, and beer only available in three ‘flavours’ and served from a can... and at three times the cost in the local Tescos. It reminds me of the venues I used to frequent during the 90’s when I felt young and out of place. Nowadays I’m old and feel right at home. It all makes sense now. But I can’t put it into words.
Anyway, Saturday night, there was no need to chill the beer. The venue could be best described as cold. However, slowly but surely as the crowd began to build up, it started to feel much … hmm, less cold. It was obviously going to remain a cold night inside the Forum (and an even colder one outside) with people standing in their jackets holding their pre-chilled (read as just come out of a fridge which warmed the beverage to the correct temperature).
Obviously feeling very comfortable with their surroundings, having played the venue together many times and using it as a secret warm-up venue for larger tours with the band The Wonder Stuff, Miles and Erica arrived on stage via the audience and quickly got down to business. I should be obvious and choose the more commercially successful side of the set, describing how they performed acoustic versions of tracks off Never Loved Elvis which has just enjoyed the 20th anniversary of its release. But what was far more interesting was the other material on offer. As a Wonder Stuff fan we’ve all got numerous versions of each song, Album, Live, Acoustic version, singles on CD single, 7 inch, 12 inch, cassette, etc, and they are all good and tonight it was enjoyable to hear them in the flesh. But again, I’m going to ignore that aspect. It was great. Wonder Stuff acoustic review officially over.
Hunt and his partner, the delightful Erica Nockalls have released a handful of albums and compilations over the last few years which are accomplished if sometimes self indulgent pieces, but at a certain point you’re allowed a level of self indulgence and I think Hunt is in that place and it’s justified. I doubt the crowd, who seemed to know most of these tunes, would disagree. They all want to hear ‘the hits’ but welcome the fact these artists are still writing and performing new material.
The set, split 50/50 between The Stuffies and Miles and Erica’s solo material flowed well and the between song banter shows a much milder and confident Hunt than when I’d be at the front getting squashed during the original Hup and Never Loved Elvis tours. Less aggressive and more secure, he seems to enjoy his craft more and more with experience and age.
Personal favourites such as These Things Remembered and Fill Her Up & Foot Down are great tunes and work well with just acoustic and violin and really show that Miles and Erica can have a separate life away from the Stuffies. With time it wouldn’t be upsetting to hear more of their solo material over the Stuffies, err stuff. It’s good, and long may the marriage of vocals, guitar and violin continue. It’s getting stronger and lyrically feeling more creative and assured than some of Hunt's earlier solo work. Highlights of the evening were also the unexpected cover songs, Immaculate Fools by The Immaculate Fools, is a song I have to admit not hearing before (an admission of guilt that I don’t own the second Shared compilation album), and a great version of the X-Ray Spex classic The Day The World Turned Day-Glo. Proof that with a little thought, some difficult songs can be stripped down and delivered with aplomb.
It’s not until you hear the two instruments together in a live situation you truly understand the clever balance the pair have created. Erica delivers a subtle percussive or melodic tone whilst Miles is smashing his acoustic furiously. It’s easy to enjoy, it’s fantastic to listen to and it’s a joy to experience. A special appearance of a new song written by and about ‘George’, an 80 year-old drinking buddy of the duo showed that the promise of exciting new material is there and ready to come to us in the near future.
Miles and Erica seem to love what they do. They are the epitome of a modern working musical outfit. Graft and more graft to make a living doing what they love. The evening was cold, but it was great. If you liked The Wonder Stuff, then treat yourself to a Miles and Erica acoustic evening. To get to the point, 20 songs, £10 entrance fee, that’s 50p a tune. Whilst Madonna wants to screw people out of £100 to watch her as a spec on the London landscape, artists like Miles and Erica let you get up close and enjoy a great evening for the price of two cans of the Forum's best Fosters and a lemonade. Value for money? No question about it. Possibly one of the best tenners I’ve ever spent on a night out.
As long as they keep coming back to play, they’ll find me hiding in the corner tapping my foot and singing along. One day I might even have the courage to go up and talk to the man whose album Eight Legged Groove Machine, brought home by my dad on vinyl due to it’s cool cover, I care to add (he didn’t know any of the tunes and took a punt on it) played an important part in me wanting to do music. But they say you should never meet your heroes.
- The Truth At Last
- Mission Drive
- Fill Her Up & Foot Down
- The Cake
- Welcome To The Cheap Seats
- New Song (George)
- These Things Remembered
- Circle Square
- Golden Green
- Immaculate Fools
- 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