The late 1980s and early 1990s are an often neglected period in British music, which is tremendous shame as it was an era that really should be celebrated.
We had bands like The Quireboys, Terrorvision and three of RTM’s all-time favourite bands in The Almighty, The Wildhearts and Thunder making fantastic records. Most of those bands are still going, even if past glories are some way behind them – indeed we have seen a couple recently.
To that list of active groups we can now add the Little Angels. Toby Jepson and the boys were an odd case. Over the course of three full-length albums (the last of which went to number one in the charts) they made a series of fantastic songs. And then they split. For 18 years they pretty much all went their separate ways – bass man Mark Plunkett managing Boyzone, guitarist Bruce Dickinson forming a music school and Jepson becoming a frontman and producer for hire – before the tragic death of former drummer Michael Lee drew them back together last year.
They played a couple of warm up shows in June before a return at Download, which has now become a proper tour. And moreover a sold-out one at that, as the Wulfrun is absolutely rammed.
Opening act for this here shindig are another band that reformed last year for some shows and are back for more. Skin’s debut album was, to RTM’s ears more a collection of decent singles and whilst we were never the biggest fans of the band, rather gratifyingly they sound just like they always used to.
In fact we do feel rather transported back to the early 1990s at the Irish Centre in Digbeth, which is where we last saw them. Frontman Neville McDonald is still all flowing locks and vocal power and songs like “
and “Take Me To The River” are premium quality nostalgia, in fact the only
thing that has seemingly changed is the physique of guitarist Myke Gray. Now a
top Personal Trainer, he is firmly in the wouldn’t-like-to-meet-down-a-dark-alley
category. Perhaps, as their closing number – and still best song – says “Look
But Don’t Touch” indeed. Tower Of Strength
So what so you do if you are trying to make a comeback after 18 years? There are ways to do it, of course, but reeling off your four best known songs one after other might be just about the best. That is exactly what Little Angels do here.
“She’s A Little Angel” kicks us off and is quickly followed by “Kicking Up Dust,” “Boneyard” and “Radical Your Lover” before we even have a chance to draw breath. Jepson – who keeps chatting to a minimum – says hello before “The Way That I Live” and “Back Door Man go past in a blur.
This really is a night that is as good as you might have dreamed it was, and seldom has a 90 minute set gone by so fast. A poignant “Don’t Prey For Me” – the song they played at Lee’s funeral – is given an airing, but this is not a night to feel anything other than a celebration. The band themselves are clearing enjoying themselves, with Jepson laughing with The Big Bad Horns during “I Was Not Wrong,” before “Young Gods” closes things off.
There is still time for a semi-acoustic sing-a-long of “I Aint Gonna Cry, which sees the frontman playing the first half before being joined by his bandmates and the cover of Bryan Adams’ “Kids Wanna Rock” that always used to finish Angels’ gigs off.
A definite contender for one of the top 10 gigs of the year, this was just great fun. It might have taken tragedy to bring them back together, but sometimes something truly wonderful comes out of despair. As long as they don’t leave it 18 years to do this again.