Black Grape, Alias Kid: Parr Hall, Warrington

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Black Grape

Black Grape

As co-frontmen Shaun Ryder and Kermit get reacquainted, Getintothis’ Jamie Bowman gets caught up in a 90s revival.

Blame Chris Evans if you want but we seem to be in the midst of a full-on 90s revival. As the swearing scourge of TFI Friday, Shaun Ryder was an unexpected but very welcome participant at the Britpop party, so perhaps it’s only right that both programme and guest make comebacks in the same month.

That Ryder is still with us at all is reason enough to celebrate but the fact that he now seems to be operating both his former bands as going concerns only increases the sense of jubilation as the grinning 53-year-old ambles onto the stage alongside fellow frontman Kermit.

It’s two decades since Ryder burst back into the charts and as the five piece band launch into exultant opener In The Name of the Father, it’s a refreshing reminder of just how original they sounded at a time when Ocean Colour Scene were being lauded as heroes. 

Then and now, rock, funk, hip hop and reggae are all melded into one brilliantly bouncy and hallucinogenic mess which somehow results in the kind of indie dance anthems Ryder’s first band patented in the late 80s.Tonight’s mixture even includes some heavy metal courtesy of a long haired guitarist introduced by Ryder as a “rock god Paul”. 

As entertaining as the gig is and as brilliant as the songs are it’s the interplay between Ryder and Kermit which really elevates the show and even adds a surprisingly poignant atmosphere to proceedings. Both men have had their severe drug problems and to see them both looking fit and well (Kermit even shows off his newly cultivated six pack at one point) and enjoying each other’s company is heart-warming in the extreme.

As if to emphasise how far the pair have come, they’re both happy to joke about the often sordid circumstances each song was written in: “Remember how cracky you were when you wrote this Shaun?” chuckles Kermit, while Ryder reminisces about the band’s LA “crack cupboard” where the two desperately tried to write songs for ill-fated second album Stupid, Stupid. Stupid. Even the lack of Bez doesn’t detract from the spectacle.

The likes of Kelly’s Heroes, Yeah, Yeah Brother and Shake Well Before Opening all rush by in a 70 minute blur and while the gig is short, it’s perfectly formed. If Ryder can keep this up and the promise of new material comes true, we could be in for one hell of a treat. 

Pictures by Getintothis’ Simon Lewis.

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