Concert Review by Kris Griffiths
Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London – 6 December 2002
For reasons known only to myself I’ve clocked up substantial mileage following Shed Seven around southeast England – this is my fifth gig in two years (I’ll stop at seven). Quite eerily, it had always started to rain either before or after the previous four shows, apart from their appearance at V2002 in Chelmsford when it started to bucket down as soon as they took to the stage, forcing sizeable chunks of the crowd to flee. Tonight however, Mother Nature has eschewed liquid precipitation in favour of subzero temperatures and it turns out to be officially the coldest night of the year. Wherever the lads from up north go, they always take the weather with them.
They always manage to attract near sell-out crowds to boot and tonight is no exception. This is no mean feat considering their last album TRUTH BE TOLD, released last Spring, sunk without trace after barely denting the Top 40 or any of the radio’s playlists, forcing them to sell the CDs at their own gigs. Indeed, the crowd’s reactions to the album’s better moments are as muted as the first night they were aired. With no new material released recently or imminently, band and crowd yet again don’t seem to be bothered. Fair play to them.
Being a year since the Sheds’ last tour I attended, I expected them to ring the changes from their usual setup, however the only apparent alterations are a slight reshuffling of the setlist and Rick Witter this time refraining from sporadically smashing the microphone off the side of his head. It seems they can never decide upon the best number to open with: past choices include SHE LEFT ME ON FRIDAY (scored superbly), STEP INSIDE YOUR LOVE (miles wide) and DOLPHIN (hit the post). To be honest with you I can’t actually remember what they opened with this time, so it must have been good.
The opening gambit successfully incorporates the mid-nineties magic of WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN TONIGHT? and GETTING BETTER, the latter involving some entertaining audience interaction: Witter dives into the front rows with his mic and lets everyone around him sing a line each, then hastily retreats when it appears some of the drunken punters actually sound better than him. “You’re all on form tonight eh London?” he remarks with a smirk as the song ends. As long as the band look like enjoying themselves, the crowd will always follow suit, and despite their limitations the Sheds always shine.
But their current position has finally become a glaring transparency: they are stuck in a rut, clinging on to the hazy memories of Britpop glory that will never fade with the fans. The most recent material still fails to provoke much of a reaction, whilst the two newies, one of which sounds strikingly similar to Stevie Wonder’s SUPERSTITIOUS, both slide into silence. “Bands have gotta play new material to move forward,” explains Witter with a sigh; the crowd collectively emitting a silent sigh in response.
There is only one cure for such indifference and the encore selections emphatically prove the point. As the audience waits ‘on standby’ the band return to unleash with aplomb their song of the same name. It has the desired effect, whilst the ensuing GOING FOR GOLD strikes gold big time. To wrap things up, DISCO DOWN floods down with the force of a quintuple-strength ecstasy pill and the crowd lap up their final dose.
Until changes are made, they will remain on standby trapped in their shed reminiscing about when they were getting better all the time. Get better soon lads.