2nd February 2017 – 8pm – The Stables, Wavendon – £18.50
While perusing the sales in Milton Keynes’ vast shopping centre with my girlfriend during a mini-break over New Year, I happened to snatch a glance at a familiar face adorning a magazine cover which was part of a ‘Local Attractions’ leaflet display. The magazine in question was Enfield Presents and the familiar face was that of Mr. Joseph Washbourn.
As a long-time fan of pop-rock group Toploader, I was immediately intrigued and snatched up a copy to discover the cover story was promoting an upcoming gig they were set to play at the Millfield Theatre (tickets available HERE). My first question to my girlfriend was: “Why was I not aware of this?”
This ramshackle anecdote is my long-winded way of saying that promotion for the “Dancing in the Moonlight” hitmaker’s new run of shows has been severely lacking. I follow them on Twitter and regularly check up on news pertaining to one of my favourite groups, yet I was completely unaware they were back on tour until I glimpsed this magazine completely by chance.
Investigating further, I ascertained that a date at the curiously named The Stables in Wavendon was closer to me than Edmonton, and so I immediately booked tickets. Sadly, such inconspicuous advertising for a midweek Winter-time gig meant that the auditorium-style venue was far from full last night, which as a fan sorely hurts when the Eastbourne lads deserve so much better. They’ve played Wembley Stadium for gawds sake!
Thankfully, a muted turn-out did not diminish their buoyancy when they hit the stage at 9pm following a 40minute set from emerging support group The Shantics, a guitar-heavy pop-punk four piece from West London. Toploader front man Joe – now shorn of his iconic Sideshow Bob-esque hairdo – was animated and full of beans, encouraging audience participation throughout, chatting and joking between tracks.
Last night marked the sixth time I have seen Toploader live, and this was the most creative and experimental I have seen them, with Joe frequently jumping up and down from his Kawai piano (occasionally almost felling his microphone stand in the process!), ad-libbing and playing around with lyrics, while the close to most numbers – most noticeably “Shifting Sand” – was extended.
The band see this mini-tour as a “warm up” in the lead-up to their soon-to-be-released fourth album, Seeing Stars (see Kickstarter campaign HERE), giving them an opportunity to get back into the swing of live shows while previewing new material such as “Roll With the Punches” and “Together”. In this regard a more intimate turn-out did not harm the rehearsal-esque atmosphere, with the setlist peppered with songs new, old, famous and less-known.
The band still seem averse to playing anything from 2002 sophomore album Magic Hotel bar lead single “Time of My Life” (which just so happens to be my favourite song of theirs and an absolute barnstormer of a way to end the show), but the variety was otherwise well balanced between bestselling debut Onka’s Big Moka and comeback LP Only Human, with standalone 2013 Radio 2 play-listed single “Turn It Around” also added to the soulful and eclectic mix.
At just over an hour on stage, this was not a lengthy performance, but what it lacked in duration it made up for in energy, and by the closing numbers (“Just Hold On”, “Dancing in the Moonlight” and encore) everyone was on their feet singing, dancing and clapping along. When Joe, Dan, Rob and their session guitarist left the stage for the second time my hands were red from such enthusiastic applause and my grin broad. I know it’s cold outside and so much easier to stay snug indoors in the Winter, but trust me: a Toploader gig will absolutely leave you glowing!
CR@B’s Claw Score: