“We’re not strictly folk!” bellows Miles Hunt during The Wonder Stuff’s Friday evening set at the Moseley Folk And Arts Festival. It’s a statement that’s true of many of those treading the boards across the Birmingham-based boutique festival’s three days.

Acoustic punk troubadour Frank Turner, Sheffield crooner Richard Hawley and singer-songwriter Passenger are other non-folkies busily strumming across the other two days, as is Dexys Midnight Runners’ Pete Williams. However, it’s the opening night bill that’s piqued Classic Pop’s interest, and a rowdy yet disciplined hour from Miles in full-on Wonder Stuff-mode.

Cartoon Boyfriend, Red Berry Joy Town, Ruby Horse (concluding in a fine cackle), and Give Give Give Me More More More are boisterous, energetic, upbeat and as catchy as ever.

“It’s lovely to be out of the box again,” Hunt adds, highlighting our collective joy at experiencing live music.

A tough act to follow, but up next are fellow West Midlanders The Nightingales – whose profile over the last 18 months has soared thanks to comedian Stewart Lee’s King Rocker documentary. The tale of how frontman Robert Lloyd’s spent 40-plus years on the outer fringes of popularity, the doc makes for compulsive viewing, and their appearance attracts hardcore and newfound fans.

With barely a pause between tunes, Lloyd’s tight Anglo-German quartet pile up the tracks, dipping into angular post-punk, stomping glam, garage rock, Memphis soul, and Captain Beefheart lurches. The ‘Gales might lack the hits of The Stuffies, but it’s a punchy and mesmerising performance.

The Waterboys often front-load their concerts with new material, but for a festival audience, Mike Scott and co. roll out the greatest hits to instant applause. Opening with the anthemic The Whole Of The Moon, Scott initially sounds a little hoarse, though quickly warms up. Staying at the keyboard for A Girl Called Johnny, he dons his guitar for a slow, rippling yet far-from-shallow This Is The Sea. Apologising for wearing sunglasses at night, the scribe confesses he’s unable to see his guitar frets without his misplaced spectacles.

Across a career-spanning 90 minutes We Will Not Be Lovers (with fiddle player Steve Wickham in fine form) sits comfortably alongside Modern Blues Still A Freak, while 1988’s Fisherman’s Blues eases seamlessly into 2019’s My Time On Earth. Demonstrating the breadth of The Waterboys’ output, My Wanderings In The Weary Land descends into a frenzied Neil Young/Crazy Horse-esque jam before a twee amusing stripped-down Dennis Hopper, and a steady country-fied Dead Flowers – a tribute to The Rolling Stones’ recently departed Charlie Watts. A crowd-pleasing set that plays to Scott’s strengths.


David Vincent

Read more: The Waterboys – Where The Action Is review

The Whole Of The Moon

A Girl Called Johnny

This Is The Sea

Still A Freak

We Will Not Be Lovers

Ladbroke Grove Symphony

Old England

Man, What A Woman

Fisherman’s Blues

In My Time On Earth

Mad As The Mist And Snow

My Wanderings In The Weary Land

Dennis Hopper

Dead Flowers


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