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After my interview with Ian, the show was due to start half an hour later. Blue Cat Cafe is a highly intimate venue out of the way of the mainstream venues in Manchester City Centre. Ian commented beforehand that he loved playing the smaller and weirder venues and he wasn’t to be disappointed as his beloved fans crammed themselves in for his acoustic solo set. Opening with ‘Icicle Works’ classic ‘Hollow Horse’, he immediately had the crowd’s attention as they observed silently an overlooked genius at work. Then he went to the other end of the scale by playing ‘All Things to Everyone’ and ‘New Light’, two songs off his last album, ‘Great Things’, an album Ian joked was “not really released, more let out on parole.” Then he turned the clock back to ‘The Icicle Works’ era, stating that the next song was the “first decent love he ever wrote”, ‘Out of Season.’ At this point, I was beginning to become more familiar with the solo side of Ian’s work, having previously only been into ‘The Icicle Works.’ Even at this stage of his career, he still commanded a passionate voice and owned the stage as not one peep passed the audiences lips, showing a true mark of respect as they gazed in awe, appreciating a true master class. The mixture of old classics such as ‘The Doors’ inspired ‘Little Girl Lost’ and ‘When It All Comes Down’, and songs from solo album ‘Merseybeast’ followed as we neared the end of part one and the harmonica started to come out at this point to give a different dimension to the mood. One of the songs off ‘Merseybeast’ was dedicated to Ian’s good friend Sam Jones, the general manager of the o2 Academy in Liverpool, who sadly passed away a couple of weeks earlier. Ian performed ‘Too Close to the Sun’ with all the passion and emotion it deserved. This is a truly fitting song, which lyrically is a beautiful concoction of words that strike the heart and soul.

The finale to part one was a song he collaborated with the famous ‘Crazy Horse’ and a song that when I heard being played on the ‘Live at Glastonbury 1994’ album (purchased afterwards) I immediately connected with on a different level. The song ‘Fire Inside My Soul’ is autobiographical of Ian’s career up to that point and his statement to announce himself to ‘Crazy Horse’ when he went to America to record the album. Lyrically, it is pure genius. To hear it being played acoustically with the harmonica used is one thing, but the live rock version is a completely different experience, making you adopt the song for your own life story. The song ended with a short rendition of ‘The Doors’’, ‘Light My Fire’, which obviously pleased me. I think my conversations with Ian about ‘The Doors’ may have inspired that one. That was the end of part one and I really couldn’t wait for part two.

With part two came a surprise and a treat for ‘Icicle Works’ fans. Chris Layhe, the former bassist of the original ‘Icicle Works’ line-up was present in the crowd and was invited to come on stage and play with Ian for a reunion that the fans fully embraced. It was a fantastic twist to the show as he played three acoustic sets singing, ‘Love is Full of Wonderful Colour’, ‘Understanding Jane’, and an acoustic version of ‘The Clash’s’, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’. The crowd applauded and whistled in appreciation, and after Chris left, Ian was back to business, performing a combination once again of solo and ‘Icicle Works’ hits, before being hauled back for an encore, in which his old friend Chris Layhe was invited to return and perform an ‘Icicle Works’ favourite, ‘Evangeline’.

Understanding Jane

It really was a sensational show and evening in general, full of great guitar and vocals, a few surprises, banter with the audience and full of nostalgia from the past catalogue. Ian has great connection and rapport with the audience, bringing the show down to light hearted fun. He is a true front man who has been there, done it, lived it, done it again and is still doing it and always will be till the day he dies. Ian spoke about how time is the ultimate judge in music and having met a few people at the gig who have only recently discovered his work, much like myself, whether that be solo or with ‘The Icicle Works’, people are still loving it and playing it, even thirty years after some of the songs were released. With a new collaboration with ‘Crazy Horse’ in the pipeline, Ian will continue to appease his fans by writing great material and after hearing his original work with ‘Crazy Horse’, I am very much looking forward to hearing that.

After meeting and getting to know him a little, all I can say is that Alan McGee said it best when he described Ian McNabb as "The sweetest guy in rock n roll - a legend as far as I am concerned." The soul continues to be on fire.

Should I stay or Should I go

Set List
Hollow Horse
All Things to Everyone
New Light
Out of Season
Beautiful Old Mystery

Too Close to the Sun
Little Girl Lost
When It All Comes Down
Fire Inside my Soul

Part 2

Love is Full of Wonderful Colour with Chris Layhe
Understanding Jane with Chris Layhe
Should I Stay or Should I Go with Chris Layhe
Before all of This
Still got the Fever
Starry Blue Eyed Wonder
Birds Fly

Evangeline with Chris Layhe

Review by Nigel Cartner
Photos by Matt Johnston