On a day that will be remembered for the Royal Wedding of Will and Kate, and 30 years after Diana and Charles’ wedding, the Icicle Works kick off their own 30 year anniversary tour. Whereas one is a ceremony filled with Tiaras, Cupcakes and Hooray Henrys, the other is a ceremony in alternative, neo-psychedelic, working class rock music from Liverpool.
The band’s name is derived from Frederik Pohl’s science fiction book, ‘The Day the Icicle Works Closed’ and as Lead singer/guitarist Ian McNabb informed us, their first ever gig was at The Masonic on Bury Street, Liverpool, where you needed a “secret handshake” to gain entry. It wasn’t the original line-up that was present for this anniversary tour, original members Chris Sharrock and Chris Layhe had long since departed, the former going on to be part of The La’s and more recently part of Beady Eye’s line-up. It was in the second generation of The Icicle Works that formed the core of this 2011 tour. Band creator, lead singer and guitarist Ian McNabb took to the stage with keyboard player Richard Naiff, drummer Matthew Priest (previously with Dodgy) and second generation bassist Roy Corkhill on this opening anniversary night in Manchester. This was the same quartet that last toured in late 2007.
The venue wasn’t fully packed out, but it didn’t stop die hard fans singing songs in adulation about McNabb every chance they got, making the atmosphere buzzing. Without any announcement or fancy lights dimming, the Icicle Works took to the stage, and the only greeting McNabb muttered was “Manchester,” cheekily putting on a manc accent. Opening with ‘When it All Comes Down’ they immediately went into two further songs, ‘Evangeline’ and ‘Little Girl Lost’ without any further communication with the crowd, for the moment. It was clear they were in no mood for pleasantries and they just wanted to get down to business, perhaps rectifying some criticism from their last tour. McNabb was clearly up for the occasion and looked like a perfectly aged rocker, reminding me a little of Lou Reed, wearing a combat jacket and dark sunglasses, with a typical rock star’s haircut. He possessed the characteristic humour and wit of a scouser, berating his own band mates and making sly comments to the crowd over the long running Manchester/Liverpool rivalry.
Keyboard player, Richard Naith, was like a mad professor, with his long straight hair, as he played the keyboard with all the body language and madness of Frankenstein on acid. Even McNabb himself announced Naith as “The Doctor of music, as he can make any sick music, better.” Drummer, Matthew Priest and bassist/backing vocalist Roy Corkhill certainly didn’t go unnoticed either as they provided the support for McNabb’s voice and guitar. McNabb joked that Priest had taken over the role of “band member most likely to fuck up” due to a fall that had left his foot in plaster.
Having only started to listen to them recently, I noticed several influences in their music. They were part of the same scene as Echo & the Bunnymen, but were more light hearted. I could sense elements of The Doors as ‘Little Girl Lost’ was surely rearranged and formed as a tribute to The Doors’ ‘Your Lost Little Girl’ which is actually the end lyric in the song and sang very similarly. Aspects of Neil Young and The Ramones were noticeable and in the bands ultimate rock song, ‘Shit Creek’ it resembled a very good Led Zeppelin track, similar to ‘Nobody’s Fault but Mine’.
The last song, before the encore was ‘Birds Fly’, and in this extended version, a few tribute medleys came into play, with the timeless ‘Who Do You Love’, The Who’s, ‘Magic Bus’ and cheesy 60s song, ‘I Want Candy’ finding itself part of the combination. They played twenty two songs from the five studio albums that were released, leaving fans very satisfied and chanting McNabb’s name, wanting more, in which an encore consisting of three songs took place. “Understanding Jane” a song about a barmaid in Liverpool, ‘Love is a Wonderful Colour’, which was their biggest UK hit, and ending with ‘Hollow Horse’.
All in all, I was certainly impressed with the show. The Icicle Works never really made it onto the commercial stage, but were seen as an excellent live band and I could see why as the guitar sounds and riffs were electric, far more prominent live than listening to on the albums.
The show started with ‘When It All Comes Down’, and on this evidence, it will be a while before The Icicle Works are worrying about a similar fate. We wish them well on the rest of their tour.