I’ve been known to talk about the great Ian McNabb before, as regular readers and anyone who gets close enough to listen to me will know. I’ve been a fan since, oooh, well it must have been the first time I heard Love is a Wonderful Colour which must have been in 1983 or thereabouts, and I followed the Icicle Works and Ian’s subsequent solo albums. He’s one of the few artists whose CDs I buy unheard as a matter of general principle. And that includes the one or two that could only be bought by sending a cheque to the man himself. Anyway, I’ve been buying his music for many years, and I keep coming back and listening to those songs again and again.
But what with one thing and another, I’d never actually seen him live. Partly because he doesn’t come here very often, but mostly because I’m really good at not getting round to things. But back in August, I was alerted to the fact that the reformed Icicle Works were playing at the Newcastle Carling Academy. The friend who alerted me offered to come along, so I bought a couple of tickets.
And so last night, we went to the Academy. Given my usual level of not getting round to things, this was the first time I’d been there. Well, that’s not quite true. Some time around 1982 or 1983 I did apply for a job there when it was the Gala Bingo Hall. I didn’t get the job, but never mind. The show was in the small Academy2 room at the top of the building – a bar, some tables with stools around the sides and a standing area. And a really small stage remarkably close to the audience. A moderate crowd turned up – the place was far from packed, but there were plenty of people to make enough noise to make Ian feel welcome. There was no support act for this show – I believe Amsterdam were along for part of the tour, but for some reason they didn’t come to Newcastle.
Anyway, Ian and the band (consisting of a drummer, a crazy keyboard player and Roy Corkhill on bass) came on. Ian started with a song by a lesser Liverpool band – You’ve got to hide your love away, and then blasted through a set dominated by classic Icicle Works songs. Too may to mention in full, but highlights for me were When it all comes down, What she did to my mind and Evangeline, which included a lot of audience participartion.
Also in the set were a couple of McNabb solo numbers – the gloriously autobiographical Fire inside my soul, which Aaron admitted to having heard before and the more recent and quite lovely Before all of this.
Throughout the show, Ian seemed to be having a good time and, not to put too fine a point on it, rocked. There was some moderate chat about being pleased to be in Newcastle after a long time, and using the rather more northerly location of Newcastle than Liverpool as a hook to introduce Up here in the north of England. He also mentioned that he wasn’t all that happy with the Carling venues the band had been touring, and that he wouldn’t be playing them again.
After all of that, there was time for a crowd-pleasing, sing-along encore featuring the frankly quite wonderful Hollow horse, the excellent Birds fly (whisper to a scream), and finally the song that got me into this in the first place, Love is a wonderful colour.
A great show by a great artist, with most of the audience clearly being long-time, appreciative fans. After the show, Ian came out to sign things, shake hands and hug anyone who’d hung around, which made the perfect end to a great night. I bought a DVD which features live footage and promo videos, and which is nicely signed by the man himself. I’ll be watching that later.
 A glorious band whose commercial success never matched up to the quality of the songs, the singer and the music, but such is often the case
 As regular readers will know
 Hi Aaron
 Roy was in the “final” version of the Icicle Works for the last album