10 years ago my friend sold me a CD of ‘Over The Counter Culture’, the debut album of The Ordinary Boys for 50p. I fell in love with it and proceeded to become quite a fan of the Worthing based band. I saw them live in 2005, then again in 2006 just as lead singer, Samuel Preston, had become a celebrity by going on reality TV and marrying a contestant.
Following on from their third album (more poppy and mainstream which fell flat), the love began to dwindle and I didn’t really feel devastation when the split was announced in 2008.
Fast forward to 2014 and a reunited line-up comes back to this intimate venue for a back-to-basics gig.
Preston thanks us as they come on stage for letting them ‘indulge in this mid-life crisis’, and tells us they’re going to play a few very unrehearsed songs before they break into the recognisable riff of ‘Over The Counter Culture’ which immediately drives the crowd forward and gets everybody singing along.
The singer’s description of the band as ‘rusty’ is quite accurate. The sound balance takes a couple of songs to get right, and the first few songs are affected by Preston’s guitar strap breaking and leads falling out, but as they are playing familiar tunes the crowd doesn’t care; these are the hard-core fans who have stayed loyal through thick and thin and are just pleased to hear the band again.
It is clear that Preston loves being back with ‘The Ordinary Army’ again as he lets them sing, and interacts with them all night.
The addition of new guitarist, Louis Jones from the Spectrals is no bad thing. He engages with the audience and has genuine chemistry with Preston, something that was missing in previous gigs. Don’t get me wrong – Preston is a great front man, but it’s nice to have some on-stage banter. It’s also nice to see founding member Charlie Stanley on drums and James Gregory return to bass.
The boys are definitely going down a nostalgic route of their pre-fame music. Their ‘rusty’ sound is gritty, rocking and loud – there’s no sign of the mainstream pop that led to their demise. Even the new material takes us back to that first album.
They cover a range of songs, mainly from the first album (which pleases me greatly) – ‘The List Goes On’, ‘Week In Week Out’, ‘Life Will Be The Death Of Me’, ‘Talk Talk Talk’. ‘Maybe Someday’ is the tune of the night as the crowd continues singing after the song finishes and the band indulge them by joining in.
The latest release – ‘Awkward’ – had the crowd singing along; a great sign that the new music is on the right track “hearing you sing that song, it brings a huge smile to my heart” Preston says.
Finishing the ‘official set’ with one of my favourite songs, ‘Seaside’, they go straight into the encores of ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ – Preston jumps down again and the whole crowd participates in a high-energy sing-along. There was a slight anti-climax with the final song being a cover of ‘KKK Took My Baby Away’ by Ramones.
The crowd was low in numbers, but I don’t think that was a bad thing. It let the band find their sound, and the fans had a great time hanging out with the lads. There was a fantastic atmosphere and this can only encourage the boys to continue and promote more new material.
Meeting the band afterward, I asked Louis how the gigs had gone (this is the second date on the tour, their third live show in total) and he said they were great but “all our equipment keeps getting broken, they [the crowd] are so mad, I don’t know how we’ll make all the dates” – they’re in Glasgow next, good luck with that one! Was tonight as mental as Manchester? “You ended up on a par with them.”
Preston tells me he’s just overwhelmed with the crowd’s reception and how mental it’s been – he’s clearly glad to be back, and we are glad they’re back too.
Reviewer: Jess Wearn
Photographer: Graeme Baty