Glasgow, Glasgow Green, 10 Sep 1989

23 Sep 1989
New Musical Express
Terry Staunton
Scream on the Green

MRS McNULTY fetches a fresh pot of tea and offers me another slice of Batenburg.1 She loves to fuss over people but doesn't get many visitors up here on the 18th floor.2 Today, however, she is a lifesaver. With panoramic views of Glasgow Green, the tower block she calls home is the ideal vantage point for watching the return of Marti Pellow and his fellow prodigals. Anyway, it's cold out there.

"Are you all right, hen, can I get you anything else?" she asks, checking the heating thermostat. What a fine woman she is, it seems nothing is too much trouble. I can't help but feel guilty, just sitting looking out of her living room windows hardly seems the right way to return her hospitality. "I'm just fine, Mrs M, you just sit yourself down and watch the show with me."

She is easily the nicest person in the city today. Much nicer than the taxi driver who tried to sell me a couple of tickets for his free concert, and she's an absolute angel compared to the jobsworth security guard who actually boarded the record company coach to check that every passenger had an enclosure pass before letting us move through. What was wrong with that man? I'm all for strict security, but this was too much. It would be easier negotiating customs at a Chilean airport.

Attendance estimates vary between 30,000 and 75,000 (the first is closer to the truth) for The Wets' first live show in seven months. The local press is full of trivia about this being the biggest free concert since The Rolling Stones and half a million butterflies went grooving in Hyde Park 20 years ago. Most of those gathered here today couldn't care less, they weren't even born. Who the hell are The Stones? Who wants 'em, we've got the Wets!

Predictably, the support acts got short shrift from the crowd who are more interested in shouting out the names of individual Wets when any roadie with a halfway decent haircut comes into view.

The gospel-tinged pop of Bliss -not that far removed from the music of the headliners- gleans no more than a passing nod, but John Martyn has a seriously hard time of it. OK, the Wets themselves idolise the man but he might as well be one of the Stones as far as the schoolgirls of Glasgow are concerned. They're not actually rude to him, he's just completely ignored.

He gives up the ghost after 25 minutes and pisses off. Hopefully he has someone of the calibre of Mrs McNulty to reassure him of his worth. Less than 18 months ago he could be seen around the concert halls of Britain giving both Tracy Chapman and Tanita Tikaram their first big live breaks.3 Today he means nothing.

And now it's time for hero worship. Marti bounds on stage wearing a smile as wide as the Clyde and shouts something in a colloquial tongue which goes right over my head. "He said it's great to be back in Glasgow," interprets Mrs McNulty, who has put her knitting to one side now that the main attraction is on.

The Wets are in stunningly good form; even the out-of-synch video screens can't spoil it. Marti has the most incredible voice in teen pop and overall the group's music has a substance and texture to it that is all too often missing with their contemporaries. The Wets have longevity written all over them, theirs is a sound which will still be going strong long after the honeymoon.

New material from the forthcoming Holding Back The River album appears to be more introspective, a couple of blocks down the street from the bubbly sparkle of Popped In, Souled Out and a cold public common is perhaps not the best place to hear it for the first time.

Temptation is breathtaking, all too much for some of the poor souls down on the ground and the crush starts. Marti appeals for everyone to move back and at one point the group leave the stage until order is restored. More than 600 are treated at the first aid posts throughout the day, around 30 are taken to hospital for minor injuries.

Another rush to the barrier ensues when Marti does a Mozzer and gives us a glimpse of shoulder – and a nipple! He writhes across the floor in a sexy stylee and the squeals get louder. With A Little Help... is turned into a bluesy riff not unlike Joe Cocker's own version of the song and the Pellow lungs go into overdrive. To sum up, The Wets were brilliant.

Mrs McNulty walks me to the lift and gives me an apple for the bus ride back to the hotel. "You look after yourself, hen, and come and see me again some time. And bring that wee Marti with you if you can."

Get down the shops and stock up on tea-bags, Mrs McNulty. Marti and his mates will be around for ages.

Terry Staunton

1 Probably meant Battenberg cake.
2 This places the reviewer in Adelphi Street, just across the Clyde.
3 During the last ten days of March 1988, John gave six concerts with these ladies as supporting act.
This review was published in the New Musical Express of 23 September 1989, on page 53. Review dug up by John Neil Munro.