I was realy quite remarkably surprised to arrive for a sold out gig 10 minutes before doors open and find no queue. Indeed until approached by a tout I found myself wondering if maybe there was another Garage somewhere else in London and maybe I was in entirely the wrong place. I was joined by another bunch of three, and then by a chap whose seen the Sultans 28 (well 29 now) times, and finally about 10 mins late they let us in. It's weird being the first in, but it does make it easy to spot the people on the guest list - a bunch of rather smart lads in slightly military style by the mixing desk, and a bunch of scruffier types mostly women over by the opposite wall. I resisted the tshirts through having no cash - a fact which was made much easier by the flyers saying where you could get them online. Bought myself a diet coke, and found a seat in the raised area by the bar, looking out over the main floor towards the stage, and was joined by Jan and Owen pretty soon, who drank apple flavoured alcopops which were cheaper than my pint of coke.
We stayed where we were for the two support acts. The Dirty Fairies were a slightly grungy all-girl 3-piece, with only the bassist singing. She had a nice enough voice and their rock just kind of rolled inoffensively over us. Finishing with a Hendrix cover "s'cuse me while I kiss this guy" was definitely a clever move on their part though, and the highlight of their set. Second support The Urges were more polished and much more my cup of tea - I'd probably say see them if they're doing a cheap gig around you. By this point the place was finally filling up, and they were struggling to engage a crowd which was there for only one thing. I think they need to work better on a finale though - I'd been enjoying their last track and clapped as it finished then suddenly they'd left the stage and I was going "oh, is that it?".
Now seemed a good time to try get down the front. And it was amazingly easy - saunter down the edge walk across and oh look here we are on the barrier in the middle. Nice. We were joined by the three people who had been the first after me in the queue, which was kind of nice. And then the band came on. Well.
To be fair I was not quite sure what to expect, never having seen them before, and there were fears that they'd be a bit middle-aged - it being 9 years since they last toured, and some scarily balding and greying heads being spotted in the wings. Said head stayed put though, and the band which appeared before us were still pretty youthful - the advantage of being only teenagers when they first set out is they're not much older than I am. Some of the band looked fairly glam, with one guitarist in leopard-print shirt and the other in red PVC jeans and a seethrough top. They were eclipsed however by Niall. Shiny black pointy cowboy boots. Shiny white PVC jeans. A black tshirt whose logo I forget, 2 strings of pink pearls and a big fluffy cropped white fur jacket. Wow!
The music was wow too, as they played a 1 hour 15 mins set which was packed solid with songs the crowd knew and loved. And knowing only a couple of them well I soon found the rest were catchy enough to sing along to the chorus in no time. Even squashed against the barrier to the extent I'm now suffering with really rather bruised ribs I had a whale of a time. It was a bit much for Owen, and Jan gave up after the second time her glasses were knocked off by the crowd surfers/stage divers (inevitable due to the barrier being actually on the edge of the stage itself, rather then some feet back. I had a couple of people land on my head too, and got bumped in the face and my hand squashed between a knee and the barrier too, but it was worth it - and it's not a *proper* gig unless you come away injured right? The whole set was a real show though, with Niall really working the crowd, and prancing about on stage and making the girls (OK me and Jan) scream. I stroked his foot and his leg. Jan stroked the jacket and got a grin in return. It was great fun.
They stuck a couple of extra unsetlisted tracks on after it, but Where's Me Jumper? was rightly the last real song of the encore, and just perfect. I'd have loved them for that alone, but now I know they're definitely not just a one-hit wonder with a couple of other novelty songs on the side. Their cult following is not at all to be surprised by if this is what they can do live.
The DJs started as the band stopped. I practically crawled onto the stage under the barrier (with much encouragement) to rescue a setlist for Jan (I've still got it, must give it to you at some point!) and ended up with a handful of pearls from the string which had broken during the show. The music was good (Sherriff Fatman, Going Underground just to start with) and I suspect those who stayed were in for an excellent club night. But the trains were calling us, and we made it to Kings Cross with just enough time to sprint for the 11:11 and our last best hope of getting home at a sensible hour. Brilliant night out, in good company, and if I hurt today so what.