Five years ago you would’ve found ‘A’ headlining the main Academy venue next door, times have changed somewhat since then and it’s back to Academy 3 for their relatively low key return from hiatus. They certainly haven’t been idle in the last four years with some of the band forming a song writing team and racking up five number ones! There is one notable absence tonight in bassist Dan Carter, who decided not to join this tour, his replacement coming in the form of It Bites front man John Mitchell.
The atmosphere tonight is great, the crowd isn’t sold out but it’s very healthy and they welcome ‘A’ back like old friends. With no record company behind them and no product to promote the pressure is very much off and it shows in the broad grins sported by most of the band throughout. The performance isn’t quite as slick as it was back at the height of their success but the sheer enjoyment and enthusiasm they put over makes it thoroughly engaging. The other advantage of having no new product is that they are free to pick whatever they want from the back catalogue and whilst there are no real surprises it’s a timely reminder of just how many good songs they have.
‘If it Ain’t Broke…’ gives way to the superb ‘Monkey Kong’ and is followed by the impossibly catchy ‘Starbucks’. There is a lot of chat between the band and some amusing stories as you’d expect from singer Jason Perry. Performance of the night must go to guitarist Mark Chapman, much underrated the sound tonight really lets his fret work shine through and he gets his moment when they cover Van Halen’s ‘Just Like Paradise’. They encourage the usual mass sing along in the middle of ’I Love Lake Tahoe’ and leave the stage for a good couple of minutes just to see if the crowd can keep up the chant, which to their credit they do.
Firm favourite ‘Foghorn’ is followed by their biggest hit ‘Nothing’, which rounds off the set before they return for an encore of ‘Something’s Going On’, the aforementioned ‘Just Like Paradise’ and ‘Pacific Ocean Blue’. It’s been a fun set for band and crowd alike and reminded us just how much we missed not having them around. Expect to see them again this time next year with the possibility of an EP release before then. Nice guys, fantastic songs, great to have them back.