Mama Roux’s is a wonderful venue in Digbeth, the fun heart of Birmingham. Within a stone’s throw of here you can also find The Mill, Dead Wax and The Night Owl (to name just a few), while around the corner we have the larger O2 Institute and The Crossing. A net of light bulbs spans the street outside and adds to the party atmosphere inside the venue tonight.
Shai Brides are first on stage and are accepted very easily by the crowd, their style pitched somewhere around underrated noughties outfit Captain and heroes of the B-Town scene Swim Deep (who in fact supported tonight’s headliners Spector in the city ten years ago). They are a good fit for the headliners, more so perhaps than the stage’s next occupants, Talk Show, an always engaging band who sit somewhere between The Fall and Josef K with their sharp, angular songs. There’s a deservedly warm reception for both though, from an audience keenly looking forward to a show that’s been rescheduled more than once, such is the nature of things these days.
When Spector burst onto the scene with their debut single ‘Never Fade Away’ eleven years ago, they were all over daytime Radio 1 for a while, not getting a hit single but propelling their debut album, the aptly titled Enjoy It While It Lasts, into the Top 20. As is so often the case, the radio support didn’t last beyond those first few singles, but the band had already found a special place in the hearts of a sizeable fan base, and have released another two albums of literate, anthemic indie pop notable for the droll, not to mention often hilarious, lyrics of their brilliant frontman Fred MacPherson.
From the first line of opener ‘Catch You On The Way Back In’, (from this year’s Now Or Whenever), the audience are in the metaphorical palm of McPherson’s hand, mass singalongs to every song and a reaction to warm the heart. Debut album favourite ‘Twenty Nothing’ raises the temperature when it’s thrown in as just the second song. McPherson announces “Good news for the front row, or anyone who’s going to be receiving my viral load tonight” before going on to explain that he has just tested negative for COVID and even produces the lateral flow test as proof! “I was worried after those dirty pigs in Manchester!” he notes, then immediately exempts the couple of people in the audience who were in Manchester for that show.
Spector are a band whose every album track sounds like a potential single, and there really is a very celebratory atmosphere throughout the night. It’s a career-spanning set, and while it might be expected that the debut album songs would be best received, this isn’t the case, with songs like ‘Bad Boyfriend’ (from second album Moth Boys) or ‘Funny Way Of Showing It’ from new record Now Or Whenever greeted like number one hits.
There’s a huge reaction to early single ‘Celestine’ and a first airing of new (non-album) single ‘Felony’, something of a departure for the band with its driving groove and subtly different sound. The band’s theme song ‘Never Fade Away’ ends the main set, with McPherson then explaining that it’s too far to the dressing room and inviting the audience to imagine that the band has left the stage and returned for an encore!
And what an encore; the brilliantly titled closer from the new album, ‘An American Warehouse In London’ is followed by early single ‘Chevy Thunder’ which nearly takes the roof off, before MacPherson decides to venture into the audience, limited slightly by the length of his microphone cord, but he manages to regale an unsuspecting audience member with the closing part of the song. Yet another crowd favourite, (they all seem like they are crowd favourites with Spector), ‘All The Sad Young Men’ brings the evening to a close on what has been a triumphant night for Spector; long may they continue.