Shack - Liverpool , Academy 2

by Keith Wildman

Ok there were those with gripes about a band coming on at half ten at night on a Wednesday, how were they supposed to get home? Were they to cut short the gig and only stay for the first twenty minutes so they could catch the last train? Why were the band half an hour tardier than

the already late starting time? All perfectly reasonable stuff...except for when it's Shack... except for when it's Shack in their back yard, in their home town, on a night when Liverpool are at home in Europe (the reason for the 10pm kick off)... except for when it's Shack in their back yard on a European night with a new album due out and the prospect of new songs being played by the genius that is Michael Head to a sold out crowd in an intimate venue who's punters included Mani

and the best part of The Coral. I'd have gladly walked home just to have been there... well, that or taken a couple of days off work and booked into the Travelodge opposite Ship and Mitre. In fact the late start was a positive boon, allowing me an extra few hours in the excellent Ship far away from the dire 0-0 match that others had to sit through.

When Shack finally come on stage the roar goes peppered with the odd heckle... "What's it called?" and the usual varied favoured song requests, Mick (sporting a Ramones t-shirt,looking like he's lost a fair bit of weight and all the better for it) takes it in his stride with "Are you here to take the piss?" before launching straight into the excellent new - and no doubt next single -  'Black and White'.

It's pretty clear straight off that this is going to be a good one, when they're on form there's no better band around, there's no better songwriter than Mick Head and everyone in the Liverpool Academy knows it, and whilst that's true, the welcome return of Pete Wilkinson on bass - who was singing along to every word and obviously loving it - and the drumming of Iain Templeton can't be overlooked, it's not just all about the Head brothers. I should also mention the fella with the flute but I don't know who he was...postcards to the usual address.

X Hits The Spot follows, then the whimsical folky interlude of As Long As I've got You before it's John's turn to take front stage with the beautiful Miles Apart. Another new track follows in the catchy Cup Of Tea - one more encouraging sign for the new album, a hint of a return to the Strands / Waterpistol material, but it's the thunderously ebbing, rousing Streets Of Kenny after that's the highlight of the night and really takes the band and audience up another level. Until

you've heard this song belted out by Mick and with John, head down, buried in a mop of hair, guitar neck hoisted up by his shoulder to a packed Liverpool crowd you've never lived, it's a bit of a cliché but it really is hairs on the back of your neck stuff.

Meant To Be was accompanied by the crowds very own vocal mariachi brass section which brings a somewhat surprised smile to Mick's face, a man who's stage demeanour normally oozes quiet understatement. To be honest, unless they stayed on for three or four hours you're always

going to be disappointed with the songs they don't play, such is the strength of their back atalogue. Cries go up for 'Carousel', 'Sgt Major' and 'Dragonfly' amongst others, the only response from the band being when Mick, all geared up to play 'Know You Well' suddenly decides that the requested 'Mood of The Morning' at the start of the encore is a better option with an "Oh...aye..yeah".

Sadly it only lasts until the chorus as the rest of the band weren't quite up to speed with a song they've not rehearsed, but it's this kind of thing that makes Shack gigs special, it's a trademark for Mick to restart a song with a "..two, three, four" when he's not happy with how it's going.

John's own style is now pretty familiar now and he's clearly grown in confidence when he's in the spotlight with his own material as he breaks into a new number who's name I didn't catch. Another decent sounding new song, a different version of Black and White, Lizzy Mallally , On The Terrace, Comedy and finally the beautiful ethereal Something Like You follow and then they leave the stage to return for the aforementioned encore.

There wasn't a person in the venue who didn't bellow out the chorus of the pleading anthemic Undecided, before they closed the show with yet another version of Black and White, with Mick and John rocking out in they way they normally do to the standard closer 'A House Is Not A

Motel'  Mick on his knees and John again looking like one of the Hair Bear Bunch in a wind tunnel. They walk off, all beaming smiles, a band loving what they're doing, in front of a crowd feeling the same. There's always the sense that Shack are your shared secret in a place

like this, they deserve all the fame and fortune the likes of The Stone Roses and Oasis have had but on the other hand from a selfish fan's point of view their low profile is what makes them what they are. There's a line in 'Neighbours' on their Waterpistol album that seems to me to sum it up:


What's it like when you've been there

And not just getting there

Let's get over there


Whilst we're on the subject of getting there, and getting back to that late start, I'm sure the lads from Leeds I met as we walked out of the venue, who ended up having to fork out the best part of £100 for a taxi back home agreed it was a price well worth paying to see the whole thing that night.

As for the band, they've been forever getting there, maybe with the new album they will, maybe Black and White will be their breakthrough single, maybe it won't  but either way as most people know Mick and John are happy just to be able to make their sublime music.




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