It was with great trepidation I set foot into Heaven on Friday 11th September. Myself and the assemblage of Adidas clad NWONW fan girls and boys have waited 20 years for this evening. It’s a night that all of us have longed for, but not one of us believed would ever actually come into fruition.
Mention NWONW to 90’s music fans, invariably it’s met with a chuckle. Mention it to anyone under the age of 35 and they inevitably just shrug. It was a genre so overshadowed by its time, for the most part, I felt like the only surviving fan.
When I first spoke to Adam about his plans to bring the brief legacy of These Animal Men and S*M*A*S*H into the fore it was exciting. It has barely been acknowledged, let alone praised and with the help of social media it became abundantly clear that not only had the love for these 2 bands been huge, it still passionately and vehemently remained.
So Adam made the film, the fire was re-ignited. Not content with putting his life on hold to make the documentary, the gauntlet had been laid down to get these bands back together. Any fan is aware of the bands turbulent history and the end days, it was this that sealed the deal as far as any talk of reformations were concerned for me. But the proverbial fat lady had not sung.
September 11th saw both bands together. The night promised to be memorable. It was either going to go down like bag of bricks whilst 90’s nay-sayer’s revelled in their “I told you so”-s, or this was going to happen…..
Charing Cross is heaving, it’s 6pm on a Friday evening. For every suit there is an Adidas tee. For every city worker dashing for the tube, there’s a thirty-something NWONW devotee dashing to the bar. As I wait outside, my fag break is interrupted by Craig. I have never met Craig before. I forget his age (apologies Craig) but he was almost akin to a kid on Christmas day. He asked if I was here to see TAM, I said yes, this prompted a bite size history of Craig’s love for the bands. The words “cool” and “different” are thrown about. How there was no one like them at the time, and never has been. And he’s right, there hasn’t been. But Craig is just one of a small army.
Inside Heaven I almost want to cover my eyes as I walk in. I want to see wall to wall people, but a small part of me is preparing for a scene akin to that one where you step into the world’s worst night club and you’re the only sentient being there. The sight I was greeted with prompted a sense of jubilant relief.
The early doors and curfew mean S*M*A*S*H hit the stage at 8pm like anarchic freight train. Rattling through a blistering set including the Real Surreal, Drugs Again, Altruism and Self Abused. it’s clear from the off that a 20 year time out has done absolutely nothing to dampen the bands energy. Energy that was drip fed from the roof to the army of fans on the floor.
S*M*A*S*H’s set seemed to start and finish in the blink of an eye. But they left the audience hungry with anticipation for what was possibly the most surprising come back in 90’s music come back history.
Some may call it clichéd, but when TAM set foot on stage dripping in Adidas, for a brief moment it was 1995. Let us not forget how old these guys were in their prime. Spraying on your jeans was acceptable in your 20’s. One could forgive a band for embracing middle age and going for comfort. But no, TAM weren’t doing some half-cocked nod of the cap to their legacy, it wasn’t a sop for fans or a favour to Adam, this was full on balls out NWONW at its dirtiest and grittiest. And my god, they have still got it.
Sharp Kid, a predictable but apt opener. Hundreds of fans singing along in perfect unison. Gone are the nonchalant “fuck you” band faces of the 90’s. These guys are loving every second of this. I saw TAM smile more in that hour than I think I ever did back in the day. Empire Building and Ambulance saw them peak, for me, hairs on the back of the neck, hands reaching to the sky, legs in the air.
It was all over too soon. I willed them to play just one more but it wasn’t to be. All over far too soon.
Some say they didn’t have their day, and rightfully so, they didn’t. But having seen so many heroes eek out the final flickers of a career in a desperate attempt to keep the flame alive, it is heart-breaking how many haven’t managed to do it, and tarnished what heritage they had in the process. So ask me if I’d rather have that brief 2 years of fame culminating in Friday’s gig, then yes, there’s no argument.
And let us not forget who made this happen. Adam single handily brought NWONW shuddering into the 21st century. He took that vague flicker of fame and nurtured it back to what it was that night.
So Adam, thank you. And to both bands, if this be the end then what a fucking riotous way to end it. To all those doubters, the music press, the Britpop snobs and the cynics, this was the sound of youth.