Live Review: Inspiral Carpets – O2 Academy, Leeds – 08.04.23

As I walked into the O2 Academy in Leeds, DJ Dave Sweetmore was firing up the crowd with a collection of Madchester classics. Banger after 90s banger filled the space in between support and headline act and it worked like a dream.

“Shall we take a trip down memory lane?” as Northside once sang (funnily enough they didn’t feature in DJ Dave’s set!), but the answer would have been a resounding yes. James, Stone Roses, Oasis’ Don’t Look Back In Anger. Joy Division, The Smiths – you name it, every piece of memory-inducing music which set the scene beautifully.

By the time Stephen Holt, Clint Boon and Graham Lambert triumphantly hit the stage after an 8 year hiatus, we’d been successfully transported back to a time when most of this audience would have been mid- to late-teens, shuffling away to these tunes in our school discos or halls of residence. What better way to take us into a journey through Inspiral Carpets’ esteemed back catalogue?

Joe is the opener and the sea of vintage merch that adorns the assembled crowd moves in time, arms aloft, nostalgia-laden. More bucket hats than I’ve seen in a long time – including a Leeds limited edition with “Marching on Together” emblazoned on the back. The band rip through classics – She Comes in the Fall, Two Worlds Collide and the jewel in their crown This Is How It Feels – drawing everyone further into the rich atmosphere of reminiscence.

There’s a poignant reminder too, printed on the bass drum skin, that this is the first tour without drummer Craig Gill, who tragically passed away in 2016. Clark has filled the seat admirably though. In conversation a couple of weeks prior to the tour, Graham Lambert told me how much of a student of the music Clark has been.

The same is true of Jake Fletcher, an accomplished musician who has spent time with the likes of Paul Weller and The Specials. Between them, they complete a sound that harks back to the original records and is a crucial part of the evening’s atmosphere.

John Cooper Clarke fills the video backdrop to deliver his piece in Let You Down, Sackville shows off Clark’s prowess in the chair, with Fletcher’s bass sending shock waves through the crowd. Directing Traffic is sung back to the band like an increasingly rowdy football chant. By the time Holt jumps from the stage and to the barrier for Dragging Me Down the sound would rival the greatest days on the terraces of Boundary Park.

The crowd filter out into the Leeds night, replete with new retro cow merchandise and fending off the chilly evening air with the warmth that this memorable music creates. They’ll be hoping it won’t be so long before they remember that This Is How It Feels once again.

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