Sunday, October 29, 2023

Haircut One Hundred Bring a Fantastic Day to Birmingham

As the culture of the 1980s has become popular again, many of the big musical artists of that decade have toured to celebrate the 30th or even 40th anniversaries of their seminal albums including ABC, Ultravox / Midge Ure, Dexys Midnight Runners, Sparks, Bryan Adams and more. 

One name notably missing from the retro line-up is Haircut One Hundred, the lively, cheerful new romantics who your mother would approve of, with their trademark fast guitar chords, sweetly idealistic lyrics, neat hair and constant smiles.

One obvious reason for this is that founding member, songwriter and lead Nick Heyward left the band after the first album ‘Pelican West’, resulting in the second album ‘Paint and Paint’ being something of a failure. It has been suggested that a breakdown from the pressure of performance and publicity caused Heyward’s split.

Back in 2004, the music cable TV channel VH1 made a series, Bands Reunited, which sought out the members of long-gone bands with a view to bringing the members back together. The members of Haircut One Hundred jumped at the chance and the show is well worth a watch on YouTube, at least for experiencing the joy of reconciliation and rediscovery as much as for hearing the story behind the band and seeing a terrific performance of ‘Love Plus One’. It turned out to have been such a good experience for the band members that they have taken the show back on the road again to the absolute delight of their fans. This tour showcases the lightning in a bottle that comes from smart, well-crafted songs performed by a close-knit band who were visibly loving every minute of the experience.

Mixed with Latin, funk, and the early themes of Britpop, the band brings together the original trio of Heyward with Graham Jones on guitar and Les Nemes on bass. Drummer Blair Cunningham was absent due to recent surgery. With additional percussion, trumpet, trombone and saxophone, the audience were treated to a full band performance with no backing tracks that other revived bands such as Dexys and Scritti Politti have heavily relied on.

Whizzing through a set of 17 songs, and instead of falling back on the formula of playing through ‘Pelican West’, they chose a wider selection of well-known songs mixed in with a few new ones, showing that they are by no means gone from the music scene. A new song ‘Surprise Me Again’ evolves their trademark sound and could easily be by Blur, such is the seamless evolution from the post-punk new romantic sound of the 80s to the Britpop rawness of the 90s and 00s.

Finishing off with extended versions, known in the old days as “12 inch”, of favourites ‘Love Plus One’, ‘Fantastic Day’ and ‘Favourite Shirts’ mixed in with a cover, performed previously as a live session on BBC Radio 2’s Piano Room, of Harry Styles’ ‘As It Was’, the show proved that Haircut One Hundred are as wholesome and enjoyable today as they were 40 years ago.

Peter Freeth



Images: Peter Freeth

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