Epic Studios, Norwich August 25, 2023
by Paul Hammerton
Tonight’s show kicks off with Norwich-based five-piece Floral Image, who make the most of this high-profile opportunity ahead of their upcoming headline tour.
While they describe their sound as psychedelic pop, it’s a heavy driving sound well suited to this venue.
It will be interesting to hear how the sound translates to the more intimate surroundings of Voodoo Daddy’s Showroom when they play there next month.
It is nearly eight years since Inspiral Carpets’ last appearance in Norwich, when they supported Shed Seven at the UEA. After just three more gigs, the band took a break from live performing, getting back to touring only this year.
At the height of Madchester, the music press labelled them as being part of the “the holy triumvirate” alongside Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses.
While Happy Mondays recently returned to Norwich alongside other 80s legends at Let’s Rock, Inspiral Carpets’ return to the road has involved performing at smaller venues mainly to crowds of long-term devoted fans.
Tonight they begin with Joe, an early single, and this sets the tone for the evening, with most fan favourites from their early years getting an airing, interspersed with later tracks.
The energy really takes off with She Comes In The Fall, finishing with a virtuoso drum solo by Kev Clark – taking the place of the tragic Craig Gill – who gets the applause of the rest of the band.
But the star of the show is Clint Boon and his 1966 Farfisa organ producing the distinctive sound that can be only Inspiral Carpets.
Boon also takes the lead with the chatting, praising the shops on Magdalen Street and expressing real joy to be performing in the building where some iconic TV has been made.
“A better keyboardist would play the Sale Of The Century theme now,” he says, but as he launches into the intro to This Is How It Feels, it’s clear his modesty is misplaced.
Boon’s son Oscar is now part of the band, and his bass solo shows that his place in the line-up is down to ability rather than nepotism.
Boon Jr fits in well alongside long-time member Graham Lambert on guitar, although Lambert remains more in the shadows.
Past collaborations with other artists get an airing. Let You Down comes with video and recorded word from the great Dr John Cooper Clarke.
I Want You was originally recorded with Mark E Smith – a genius, according to Boon Sr, but a challenge to work with when shut in a room together.
The encore brings us Dragging Me Down, a cover of 96 Tears and a triumphant Saturn 5. It’s only at this point that vocalist Stephen Holt sets aside his deadpan delivery and really goes for it, forming a bond with his fans as he sings from the barrier and shows off some dance moves.
Perhaps those who saw the band in the late 80s or early 90s are best placed to judge if the same magic is still there, but the sound – especially the organ – is wonderfully nostalgic, and the encore delivers the visual impact that brings a night like this to life.