Ian McNabb
Carling Academy, Birmingham * * * *
Review by Steve Nicholls

He may have been a solo artist since 1993, but it's 25 years since Ian McNabb formed the Icicle Works in Liverpool and so it's time for an anniversary tour.

There's always a few Icicle Works songs that the faithful demand during his solo sets, but this jaunt around the UK allows him to spend a night immersed in pure, unapologetic nostalgia.

And everyone's happy. McNabb stopped worrying about chart success long ago – he has a fiercely loyal following large enough to keep him in business and the West Midlands branch are out in force at the Academy.

What is soon apparent is the expansive range of styles in McNabb's songbook. Jangly guitar pop such as Melanie Still Hurts, sits alongside the Led Zep-influenced Shit Creek (getting a rare live outing), a ballad like Blind and a whole mixed bag of power chords, melodies and synthesizer hooks.

He's an accomplished guitarist too and two of the highlights – Up Here In The North Of England and the Neil Young-inspired What She Did To My Mind – still send shivers down the spine.

Sometimes, though, it can get a bit too schmaltzy. Soaking up the genuine warmth coming from the audience McNabb reminds us how nice it was to be playing these songs again. "I grew up with these songs. You grew up listening to them," he gushes.

Grew up, maybe. Got older, definitely. Starry Blue-Eyed Wonder used to spark quite a rampant moshpit back in the late 80s. These days it's more of a vigorous collection of nodding heads.

But maybe it was just a bit too early in the set. A few pints later and Evangeline – one of several anthemic tunes in McNabb's repertoire – has a handful of inhibition-free souls bouncing up and down like they were 21 again

Often it’s a predictable call-and-response singlalongaMac with the word-perfect crowd taking over the singing duties and it all leads up to nicely-worked climax when the big hitters Hollow Horse, Birds Fly and Understanding Jane are brought out for the encore.