There’s something so life affirming about seeing a largely middle-aged crowd watching Haircut 100 live again for the first time in four decades.
The joy, the selfies, the dancing, the North Face gilets and the look of awe, through the glasses they now must wear, at just how freakishly young looking the band’s singer and songwriter Nick Heyward is and how super funky and exciting his band of 60-somethings still are on stage.
But this is no usual return to the heritage pop and rock trail that so many 80s and 90s bands continue to embark on.
Haircut 100 are a little different. In Love Plus One, Favourite Shirts and Fantastic Day they have cast iron 80s pop bangers that are still regularly played on the radio and their then teenage fans 40 years ago will still remember well.
But there’s a certain something else too. A coolness to the way they blend soul, pop and funk so effortlessly, perhaps.
Last year they found new fans and delighted old ones with their incredible BBC performance for Radio 2’s piano performance sessions. It sparked enough interest to tour again, with last night’s show at the wonderful art deco Bath Forum the latest leg.
With the Thunderbirds theme heralding the band on stage they start with pure funk, with Baked Beans and the incredibly addictive Favourite Shirts. What an opening. So full of energy.
Now an eight-piece for this tour, with a great horn section and percussionist the old guard are gradually introduced during the set.
There’s Les Nemes the bassist, whose seriousness on stage is an act, as he concentrates on finding “the sweet spot” on stage to hear the percussion.
Then there’s Graham Jones, reminiscing about the early days of the band and giving advice on being in a band to musicians in the crowd.
On Blue Hat for a Blue Day, which was a solo single for Heyward, Jones makes clear that they will play the “Haircut 100 version”. Perhaps indicating he has had enough of many years of people thinking its from his band.
Absent though is drummer Blair Cunningham, who has recently had health issues and has been unable to tour this time around.
There’s some new tracks too, including Soul Bird from a forthcoming Haircut 100 album, which are pretty good pop funk numbers.
And there’s some interesting rarities too, such as Love Plus One’s B-side Marine Boy getting an airing.
As the set progresses through this blend of old and new the anticipation for the band playing this aforementioned A-side and Fantastic Day grows. And they don’t disappoint. The main set ends with extended ‘12” single’ versions of both. Crowd and band are at one. They don’t want these hits to end.
An encore is inevitable, and they return with their version of Harry Styles As It Was, which featured on their BBC performance and an extended version of Favourite Shirts.
With these extended versions, some new songs, and those old hits, they happily played for an hour and a half without breaking sweat. They probably could have done another hour so happy were they to play again and see a busy crowd of adoring fans again.
Support was provided by Barbara, from Brighton & Hove, who are just about the nicest chaps you will ever see on stage. They have a theatrical quality on stage, acting in parts of songs. And the music is perfect for this crowd, blending influences from 1960s psychedelia, 1970s pop and the funk new wave of Haircut 100 themselves.
Among their best tracks are Don’t Send Me Messages and These New Communications, which will certainly be familiar to this crowd after featuring on Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse’ Gone Fishing.
Words and pictures by Joe Lepper
Haircut 100’s full set list