Review by Jack Foley & Paul White
"IT'S a Saturday night in London town,'' announced Shed Seven lead singer Rick Witter midway through the final date of the band's tour at Brixton. "Are you having fun?'' The crowd's roar of enthusiasm was enough to tell him that they were, for this was a suitably rousing finale to a tour which has allowed the band to showcase their woefully under-rated new album, Truth Be Told, while also providing a timely reminder of why Shed Seven ought to still be considered among the country's finest alternative bands.
If you were being critical - and let's face it, the Sheds have their knockers - you could point to the fact that Witter's voice sounded as though it had reached the final date of the tour (he did have a tendency to let the crowd do the work during the more popular numbers), but such is the enthusiasm and sheer boundless energy of the frontman that the party atmosphere he helped to create allowed the crowd to feel part of the evening - never more so than during one of the sweatier numbers, Disco Down.
But the mark of any good band is seeing how they have progressed over the years and the new maturity to be found in many of Truth Be Told's tracks was there for all to see, as older back catalogue crowd pleasers slowly gave way to slower, more meticulously constructed new material, such as the sublime and superbly executed recent single, Cry For Help, a concert highlight which featured Witter's voice at its most telling and some truly memorable hammond organ.
Elsewhere, new tracks such as the hauntingly melodic Thinking Again again demonstrated Witter's vocal range and the band's willingness to diversify, while If The Music Don't Move Y'er is a classic slice of Shed Seven at their best - raw and up front. New single, Step Inside Your Love, manages to combine the best of both elements and really ought to be a strong seller (tragically, it will struggle to make much of an impression in today's boy band obsessed Top 40).
In spite of the quality of the new material, however, you could sense that the older material was what the crowd was really here to see and they did not disappoint during the sweatier numbers. Going For Gold, in particular, stood out, as did On Standby, She Left Me on Friday and Getting Better - all moments when the crowd helped Witter out by singing along as one.
If there were moments when the band seemed to be on autopilot - the night didn't really get properly going until four songs in - they did save their best for last and the four-song encore was one to savour, taking in a rare live version of Devil In Your Shoes (a slow building classic), a cover of David Bowie's Gene Genie and, for the obvious but no-less impressive finale, Chasing Rainbows, always guaranteed to send the crowd home satisfied.
Vocally, Witter is usually up there among the Dave Gahans and Eddie Vedder's; although on Saturday night, there were moments when he sounded distinctly croaky. But whenever his voice was found wanting, there was always the sheer breathless energy of his on-stage antics to keep the audience amused and lively. There are few frontmen who can emulate his physical prowess on stage, or his bravado, and this readiness to be at one with his fans was demonstrated superbly when Witter stepped off the stage to be among them, passing his microphone around for the chorus of Getting Better.
To see him live, together with the rest of Shed Seven, is to realise why, in spite of falling record sales, they are still up there among the must-see live acts of their musical generation.