its easy to get overexcited about things in norwich because when they actually happen nobody seems that bothered. such was the anticipation/apathy contradiction at the Lightly Crowded Room at the uea last night as the mighty supergrass found themselves in east anglia when they probably expected to be in the astoria where everyone would go mental and clap their hands and things like that. the last time I saw supergrass was in 1994 when they were supporting shed seven at the boardwalk in manchester which was a spectacularly upside-down night as clearly supergrass should have played after shed seven who were already the also-rans of 90s british alternative music that hailed from york and miserably underachieved except for dolphin or that one about rainbows which chris moyles probably likes because they’re from yorkshire and what else you might need to know about them I’m not sure. the boardwalk was also was also a canny little venue which crammed students and townies in all week and had, well, a boardwalk kind of thing in it from where you could pour red stripe onto teenagers on club nights but was the right size for the amount of people who actually went to gigs like that in those days before everything was sponsored by o2 or top man and you have to barter on ebay to pay double just to see the congolese nose-flute orchestra playing hex enduction hour backwards at the art centre.
so there was a little squeak of anticipation as I left the house after putting the bins out and filling the dishwasher and sorting out the recycling. 14 years later, supergrass and shed seven are still shuffling around the country peddling their indiewear but supergrass never went away and have popped out some super sparkly albums in the meantime and so are now touring to support their new album which I haven’t heard and don’t know what is called whereas the aforementioned shite seven have recently ‘done an abc’ and reformed because they apparently had nothing better to do and are hawking some kind of greatest hits tour which must be a pretty short affair and is undoubtedly rubbish. on arrival at the uea I parked the zafira under a street lamp in the hope that the wing mirrors would still be there on the way out and tritted down the hill to the concrete bastion of acoustic deconstruction which was by the time I got there a little bit kind of full but with gaps in the way that says its not sold out but the middle-class middle-aged have bagged all the steps round the edge and so you’ll have to push through them to mix with the teenage fanclubs and stoners who will undoubtedly lob their plastic pint over you at some point which they do. expecting the support to come on at any time I took my nasty-but-cold pint of 1664 and sorried and thankyoud my way through 5-deep of people even older than I and after nearly failing to negotiate the last step down to the pit arranged myself neatly in front of someone who was far too short to go to gigs at the uea anyway. I checked a couple of emails on my phone, like a w*nker, and then suddenly it went that kind of half-dark and on trolloped the other band from oxford (I’m not counting ride), and proceeded to rock out with a track from the new album. and another. and another, I think.
even though they had a rather splendid lcd backdrop (although not, unfortunately, an lcd soundsystem), by the time they’d rattled off some tracks from the new album and gaz had informed us that we’d probably be regailed with pretty much the whole of the new album, people were getting a bit twitchy and shuffling around and rather than taking pictures with their phones they were talking calls with their phones. but wait, salvation. deep enough to submerge dubai is the back catalogue and so we will be treated to a smattering of hits-u-like which will keep us amused enough not to leave and amuse they do. they obviously save caught by the fuzz right until the end, but in between the borderline prog-foo fighteriness of some of the new stuff they clasped our hands and walked us right into the 90s when the sun was always shining and I had hair. it was at its best when members 4 & 5 of the live band disappeared off stage or picked up a tamborine and gaz poked us with the whimsy stick with sublime renditions of late in the day and a soaring moving and you remembered why you came. they can rock out just fine but you don’t want to be doing that at the uea because it just sounds like a jet taking off without any wheels when it gets mashed unceremoniously through that arcane speaker stack although brecon beacons sounded nice until my eyes started bleeding with the sonic james bond laser attackness of the sound system even though some people were actually jumping up and down a bit which must have meant something.
I make it sound half-hearted but it wasn’t but it was. they did what they do very well which is crack open a song box and let it pop all over the stage like a looney tune. we did what we do very well in norwich which is gawp like goons and start a mock fight while one hand claps and a stoner bounces of everyone shouting oi! oi! I think I may have enjoyed the whole experience much more if I hadn’t had to know in quite so much detail who I was surrounded by. there is an unfortunate trend currently to arrange a large number of lights on the rig so that they shine directly into the audience and mostly directly into your retina. at far-too-frequent moments in any given set, those lights will cascade over those assembled, presumably so that we can somehow join in with the signing bit where we’re supposed to join in but really, for about half the night we were bathed in an effervescent glow which only served to highlight the fact that you’re surround by people you don’t want to be surrounded by. I am quite happy for all the lights to point at the bloody band like what it always used to so that I can remain comfortably numb of my immediate surroundings and focus on the action. they do it down the waterfront too, but I don’t mind it so much there because in general what you see is akin to what you would see if david lynch made teenage pop horror, which is often better than what’s on stage, but at the uea, well, its just unpleasant. its not as if we need help in norwich to kill the atmosphere, but turning all the lights on like its the end of the school disco doesn’t really help.